Gatlinburg Inn remembers lives lost after a year of progress

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Ribbon-making and laughter filled the Gatlinburg Inn on. November 28, 2017—a much different scene than the same day on the year before it.

"It just got smokier and smokier, and our lights stayed on all day, and we were concerned, we knew where the fire was, but not exactly how close," Glenda Surrette told Local 8 News.

Surrette fled the Gatlinburg Inn one year ago, and she said she called guests on their way to warn them. Since the fires, she said business has not slowed down.

"We've actually had a successful year here at the inn, and everybody's spirits are great," she said. "Yet [it is] a sad time, so many people lost their lives, 14 total, but we feel blessed we have our home away from home—the Gatlinburg Inn."

Visitors from out of state said they were at the inn during the fires, but Gatlinburg is too special to never return to.

"I'm just glad to see it's recovering the way it is, but still a terrible tragedy for all 14 lives lost, but I'm so glad to see it recover, we're so happy, we love to come here," said Susan Dorfner from South Carolina.

Surrette said she's happy to move on, but the pain still lingers for the lives lost. She said she's most thankful the fires happened on a Monday and not the weekend, when the city is usually full of people.

"If it had happened over the Thanksgiving holiday, it would have been untold amount of people that would have lost their lives," she said.

Surrette said at the time of the fires, only seven rooms were occupied; however, just a few days before the fires, the hotel was fully booked.