Gatlinburg resort quickly rebuilding one year after wildfires

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa is making a fast recovery from the severe damage left behind from the wildfires on November 28 last year. Seventy of the 90 buildings at the resort were destroyed.

“Everything was devastated. Buildings only had elevator shafts remaining. The rest of them were just rubble,” said David Siegel, president of the resort.

Flashing forward nearly a year later, it looks much different around the property. There is an additional 800 people along with the resort employees working to rebuild and improve what was lost.

“We are just very proud of this community, the way they came together unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” said Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip.

VIDEO: Westgate Resort damaged by Gatlinburg fires

Following the fires, employees went right to work cleaning up, and construction quickly followed.

“All you had to do is throw up your hand and say, ‘Who can help?’ and everyone jumped in line,” said Waltrip.

In addition to replacing buildings, new ones will go up along with a new restaurant, spa and retail complex.

Approaching the one year anniversary of the fire is not easy, but the owners say seeing this progress and continued support from the community is a reminder of why it’s important to keep pushing forward.

“To see what happened to it a year ago broke our hearts, but we’ve vowed we are going to come back bigger and stronger than ever,” said Siegel.

The resort is planning to hold a celebration for team members on November 28. Resort leaders said they’ve raised money that will be given to the local community through a special project they will announce that day.

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