Home / National News / Tenn. Woman Recounts Her Narrow Escape from Wildfires: 'Flames Started Shooting Out From All Around'


(GATLINBURG, Tenn.) — From her hospital bed, Debbie Brooks recounted her narrow escape from the wildfires that destroyed her home and devastated her Tennessee community.

The Gatlinburg, Tennessee, resident spoke to ABC affiliate WATE-TV on Thursday in her room at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in the city of Knoxville.

“I don’t think anybody down below knew how bad it was up above,” Brooks told WATE-TV of the blaze that consumed her home Monday evening.

“Flames started shooting out from all around,” she said. “And then the storage room ceiling collapsed, and the main beam of the house came through it.”

Brooks said she immediately grabbed her dog and two cats before sprinting to her car.

“Put it in gear in reverse and just slammed through the garage doors,” she said.

In a panic, Brooks flipped the car, WATE-TV reported.

Brooks said that she then called 911, but she claimed the operator who responded told her no one could get to her.

“I said, ‘That’s nice for you to say, but I’m going to die if somebody doesn’t get up here,'” Brooks told WATE-TV.

The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Brooks told WATE-TV that she waited for help for five hours. During that time, she was was pelted by golf ball-sized embers in the air.

“It was like being involved in a meteor shower,” she said. Brooks added that she tried to shield her pets and suffered third-degree burns to her arms as a result.

However, Brooks’ dog named Jelli somehow got away. When police arrived, they told Brooks she had to leave her dog behind, WATE-TV reported.

The Gatlinburg Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Brooks lamented the loss of her dog to WATE-TV, saying through tears that it was “my responsibility to take care of her, and I didn’t live up to my responsibility.”

She added that Jelli was “the sweetest dog.”

Despite the pain of losing her beloved pet, her home and personal belongings, Brooks said she was incredibly thankful for the support and help she has received. She noted that several hospital staff members donated much-needed clothes to her.

“I think we’re all going to rebuild, and we’re going to be closer than ever,” she said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Recent posts in National News