One of the most devastating stories from the wildfires burning in the Smoky Mountains is the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa. The fire destroyed 70 cabins — nearly two thirds of the resort. And one family from Jefferson County said they are lucky to have escaped just before their building burned.
“We were driving through hell,” said Jenny Moon of Arnold.
But that's not how the holiday started for her, her husband Stan, and their three children ages 9-months to 5-years-old. Their vacation began with hot tubs and hikes at and near the Westgate Resort near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and nowhere near the fires making national news — or so the Moon family thought.
“They had said it was 100 percent contained on the news,” Jenny remembered hearing when they first arrived Thanksgiving night. “We thought never in a million years would it reach us.”
With winds gusting at around 60 miles per hour the fire did turn their way. Monday, Jenny and Stan Moon said the resort advised the family to stay in their room to avoid the smoke. That night around 8:00, they said the power went out and when Stan went to look for candles he found most of the guest and staff had left.
“I came outside and there were embers flying all over and the fire was already coming up the mountain,” said Stan.
And out of the 700 hundred reported evacuated by the resort, he said he could only find one other family.
“There was one guy left in the resort and he told me to get out of there and I said, ‘My family is still in the room,’” Stan said.
Viewer video obtained by Newschannel Five’s sister station in Tennessee WBIR showed what the Moon's said they barely escaped — driving down the mountain and through the fire.
“There were times where the fire and leaves and burning embers would fly over our car,” said Jenny. “I even called my mom to unofficially say my good-byes.”
The Moon's estimate the building where they were staying - with no idea the fire was approaching, and no warning they said from the resort - burned to the ground less than a half hour after they left.
“We were in fear of our lives,” said Jenny. “No doubt about that.”
WBIR reported some employees did stay behind going door to door getting guests out of the resort, but the Moon's said the first word they got from Westgate was two days after the fire when the company called doing a “head count” to see if the Moon’s survived.
KSDK has reached out to the resort but has yet to hear back. Jenny said they are not looking for any kind of compensation, simple a show of concern from the company.