Dozens trapped in hotel as Tennessee town is ‘engulfed’ in flames

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Dozens of people are trapped inside the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg.

tennessee-wildfire-slideshowLogan Baker, a hotel guest who is at the hotel staying with his family, said when he checked in the hotel was already starting to fill with smoke. He said fire came up to the parking lot of the hotel and firefighters told him it was not safe to leave.

“The only road to get down from the hotel, trees had fallen down in the road and were just engulfed in flames,” said Baker. “Then the flames came up into the parking lot and then told us we all had stay inside.”

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Baker said his family was in the lobby and didn’t know what was going on, but the hotel filled with smoke. He said the emergency doors had come off the rollers, so smoke and embers were just coming up into the hotel and it was difficult to breath.

Finally, firefighters were able to barricade the doors. Baker said they busted out windows in the upper floors of the hotel so that smoke could escape out of the top of the hotel.

“They’ve had firefighters come in here and the firefighters told us for the time being it’s just too dangerous to evacuate,” said Baker. “We can’t go outside. The firefighters said the wind is blowing at 80 miles per hour and the debris in the air is too hard to get us down right now.”

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Describing his view from the hotel, Baker said all around him trees are burnt. He said there are lots of small fires in downtown Gatlinburg.

“It’s just engulfed. From what I can see, now there are still a few trees that are in the way, but I am also looking at the hillside past downtown Gatlinburg and I can see cabins on fire and something did explode. My aunt said one of the cabins just exploded,” said Baker.

A sous chef at the Park Vista Hotel also shared video of flames surrounding the hotel. “Definitely not safe,” posted Adam Palmeno to his Facebook page.

At least 500 evacuees were in a Red Cross shelter at the Laconte Event Center Monday night in Pigeon Forge. Tuesday morning there were still more than 100 people taking shelter.

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