Locals fight to save their cabins in Smoky Mountain wildfires

(WVUE) - Wildfires fueled by high winds are spreading across parts of eastern Tennessee. More than 14,000 people in Gatlinburg alone were forced to leave.

"The winds were howling for hours. We had 50 and 75 miles per hour wind gusts, and I mean it was just tremendous to feel that," says Conrad Caruso.

Caruso is from New Orleans and owns a cabin in Wears Valley, outside of Pigeon Forge.  Caruso, like so many from the New Orleans area spent Thanksgiving and other holidays in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Caruso is there now fighting to save his cabin.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people lost their cabins and were left with very little. It just reminds me of the tragedy we had with Katrina, but not as wide spread," says Caruso.

Caruso's been without power since yesterday afternoon, and he says he's already watched a nearby cabin burn to the ground.

"To see people just leaving their homes or cabins with just suitcases of clothes and everything else is burning is heartbreaking," says Caruso.

"Gatlinburg really holds so many memories for my husband and I and really for my whole family," says Cynthia Albert.

Albert is paying close attention to news updates about the wildfires as flames continue to destroy cabins and businesses through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Albert owns a condo in Gatlinburg and says she just left there Saturday morning.

"There are just so many things that I'm afraid may not be there next time we go," says Albert.

Dollywood Representatives say the theme park has not been damaged, but more than a dozen cabins operated by the park were destroyed.

Resort staff evacuated families staying at the Dollywood Dream More Resort.

Despite previous reports, Ober Gatlinburg park and ski area is fine.

Still, more than a hundred buildings of the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort were wiped out by the fire.

"The wind and the embers are flying around and everything and being so dry, that's what started the fires all around. It just keeps getting worse," says Caruso.

Caruso says it did rain a little bit last night but more rain is expected tonight.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.