GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Gatlinburg has reopened to the public following last week’s deadly wildfires, WSMV reported.
The barricades were taken down early Friday morning. As soon as they were removed, traffic began flowing into Gatlinburg.
Most of the tourist area, which draws more than 11 million people a year, was spared. Fourteen people were killed and about 2,500 homes and buildings were destroyed by the fires.
Two juveniles have been charged with starting the flames that ignited the wildfires.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park also reopened areas that had been closed. People were allowed back into the park at 7 a.m. Friday.
Many people were eager to get out and shop and support Gatlinburg’s small businesses. Everything has been closed since Gatlinburg was evacuated 12 days ago.
Dan Booth, owner of The Hayloft, said it was humbling to see the customers return.
“Because you think not that many people care about a little bitty town in the mountains with 4,000 people,” Booth said.
One woman visiting from Alabama had a trip planned here for months and couldn’t wait to get up here and support these businesses.
“I’m just happy to see it open. This is part of our life; we come every year. We look forward to coming every year. To think it wasn’t going to be open was just devastating,” said tourist Nancy Ferguson.