AL timeshare holders, vacationers react to deadly TN fires

AL timeshare holders, vacationers react to deadly TN fires

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As firefighters continue to battle the flames in Tennessee, some Alabama residents are remembering happier times where thousands would be in line to enter Gatlinburg rather than evacuate it.

According to the National Park Service, more than 10 million people visit the Great Smokey Mountains National Park each year.

Whether it's for a leisurely hike, a honeymoon, or family vacation, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have some connection to the Gatlinburg area.

"That would seem to be the only place I remember going a lot; the mountains," said Laura Patterson of Millbrook. "Pictures with my family and then going with my kids and my husband. We make three or four trips a year up there. We'll just make random trips."

Patterson even had plans to visit for New Year's but the fires have turned her plans into uncertainty.

Her co-worker, Bobbi Post, is also now unsure if, or when, she'll visit again, and where she'd even stay.

"Me and my husband actually purchased a timeshare about 10 years ago at the Westgate Resort," Post said. "So we go about every year. What I can see and what I've heard is the Westgate Resort, where we have our timeshare at, has been totally destroyed. There may be a couple buildings left but most of it's gone."

The severity of the wildfires could keep even more people away in the coming months, dealing a devastating impact on Tennessee's economy.

The National Park Service says those 10 million visitors are worth more than a billion dollars in revenue and support more than 13,000 jobs in the area.

And while buildings can be rebuilt, some things can never really be replaced.

"It just made me sad thinking that everywhere that I've been might not be there the next time that I go," Patterson said. "And not just the buildings, but the scenery. I think that's the most devastating part about it is it not being there the next time you go and all those memories you've had are gone."

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