Devon couple slept as wildfire forced Gatlinburg evacuation


Devon couple slept as wildfire forced Gatlinburg evacuation

Image caption
Seven people have been killed in the wildfires

A holidaying couple claim they awoke to find they were the only people left in a US town threatened by wildfire.

Adrian and Lesley Hughes from Axmouth, Devon, said staff at their hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, told them to evacuate the building on Monday night.

But when they did not receive a follow up call about transport, the couple assumed the evacuation had been cancelled so went to bed.

Seven people have been killed and hundreds of homes destroyed.

Image caption
Adrian and Lesley Hughes are on a three week holiday

When they arrived in the popular holiday resort the air was “pretty smoky” because of the wildfires further up the mountain, Mr Hughes told the BBC.

At about 20:00 local time (01:00 GMT) they noticed a small line of fire about 1,640ft (500m) up the mountain.

“The wind really began to blow and soon the fire spread along and down the mountain”, said Mr Hughes.

Staff rang their room and told them the hotel was being evacuated but Mr Hughes said he was unable to drive as he had been drinking.

He said he was told transport would be arranged, but when they did not get another call they assumed the evacuation was off.

The next morning they found the town deserted apart from the emergency services.

Mr Hughes said: “Reception was locked, no staff, no other guests and having walked down the road a bit there was no one in the town other than the emergency services.”

Firefighters told him the couple should pack up their belongings, get in the car and make their way to the police line at the edge of the town for more information.

The couple said they have heard many upsetting stories from the residents of Gatlinburg and their thoughts and prayers go out to those that have lost family and homes.