Indianapolis family thankful to be home after fleeing Tennessee wildfires

Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Credit: Ashley Biggens via WATE ReportIt!)
Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Credit: Ashley Biggens via WATE ReportIt!)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis family is thankful to be home after fleeing the massive wildfires in Tennessee.

The family of eight was ordered to leave their resort in Gatlinburg when the flames and smoke got closer and closer.

Jessica Murphy told 24-Hour News 8 her family drove to Gatlinburg for a family vacation and had only been there for less than a day when they were forced to evacuate.

She described the scene as terrifying and heartbreaking.

“You could feel the fire and the kids were crying and we’re trying to explain to them we’re going to make it,” said Murphy.

Murphy recorded videos on her cell phone as her family drove through the darkness trying to leave town.

“The fire was on both sides of you, the fires were going across you, you were surrounded by fire just praying you would make it out,” she said. “Luckily we were one of the families that made it out.”

Murphy, her husband and six children got to the Westgate resort last weekend.

“When we first got there Sunday night, they had a owner’s dinner, we had fun with the kids,” she said. “We woke up Monday to go swimming and to do some activities.”

But by that time they were already seeing smoke.

“They said that because of the smoke we had to go back to our room until further notice,” she said, “It was dinner time and then we were called and told we needed to evacuate.”

The fire destroyed several cabins. Murphy said it was a miracle the fire missed theirs.

“We were lucky but then seeing how the other people weren’t so lucky it just broke our hearts,” she said. “You can’t get, you know, lives back, but you can get all those materialistic things back.”

Her family spent days on the road trying to get back to Indianapolis.

“It’s just you know tragic that there weren’t families that were able to get enough time to make it out,” she said. “Not having enough exits and time.”

She said she can’t help but cry when she looks at the videos and pictures.

“Our thoughts and our prayers are with them,” she said. “I continue to pray that they’re able to get more people out and maybe that no more lives are lost and we can account for everybody else.”

Murphy is planning to go back in a couple of weeks to pick up some personal items they left in the cabin.

She’s also hoping to raise money to take supplies back to Tennessee to help families affected by the devastation.