Record wildfires are tearing through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, destroying hundreds of buildings and threatening two major tourist spots–Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Thousands fled the area, including Gatlinburg resident Michael Luciano.
Luciano, a local business owner, posted a harrowing video to his Facebook page earlier this week showing a first-person view of his terrifying escape from the encroaching flames. The video shows an increasingly desperate flight down the mountain away from the approaching fire. Luciano narrated the escape, pointing out fallen trees, downed power lines, and burning cameras. At one point, he soothes a dog named Red who appears to be cowering in the back seat. Eventually, Luciano and his companions made it to safety.
"We almost didn't make it out alive!! But we did," Luciano posted on Facebook. Since he posted it, the video has been watched more than five million times.
The Gatlinburg wildfire broke out Monday evening when embers from the nearby Chimney Tops wildfire blew into town. High winds and unprecedented drought conditions caused the flames to spread quickly. More than 14,000 residents have evacuated the area, and 150 structures have been consumed by the flames. Smoke, ash, and haze from the Tennessee fires has blanketed the entire state of South Carolina, and a faint hint of the blaze could be smelled as far north as Southern Michigan according to the Detroit Free Press.
"People were basically running for their lives," Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said on Tuesday afternoon at a local press conference. Luciano isn't the first to film a daring escape from wildfires. The cameras were rolling when a man drove through a blaze in Canada last year. This year in Australia a man didn't take the danger of burning trees very seriously and stopped for a selfie with the fire.