‘The fire burned sideways in the cold, red dark’

Longreads

At Garden & Gun, Justin Heckert tells the surreal story of the worst fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 100 years. The fire — started by kids playing with matches — started small and crept across the Smokey Mountains to threaten people as they slept in their beds. The fire took the lives of 14 people, displaced 14,000 more, and consumed 2000 properties in under 24 hours.

The fire burned sideways in the cold, red dark. When it found the little cabin on the mountain, it broke through the front window first, then curled up the wall, and eventually ate the cedar hope chest made from a tree on Linda Morrow’s family’s farm in Sebastopol, Mississippi. The sound of breaking glass startled her awake: her husband’s suncatcher, scraps of stained glass strung on fishing line, knocked off a window by the fire and onto the floor.

As she scrambled…

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