Several local families on vacation near Tennessee wildfires return from being evacuated

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. - Several families from central Pennsylvania are currently on vacation near the scene of the wildfires in Tennessee.

They were hoping to enjoy a relaxing week away, but instead found themselves being forced to evacuate as flames threatened the area.

Four couples from York County had rented a cabin a few miles from Gatlinburg, where a wildfire is burning, and when the winds picked up, a serious dent was put in their vacation plans.

They could see the flames from their windows, fanned by strong winds that did a number on the cabin.

“It ripped the whole roof off that cabin and then one below us, it tore the sheet metal off that roof a little bit, not like this one,” Jim Berkheimer of Spring Grove said.

The roof blocked their way out as he and the other families evacuated Monday night.

They ended up spending the night in a motel.

But they could tell earlier in the day as they drove into Gatlinburg that things were quickly getting worse.

“And when we get in there, it was so darn smoky you couldn't even get out of the car, so we decided to get out of there and we went the other way, the opposite direction,” Berkheimer said.

When they came back to the cabin Tuesday, they saw the damage left behind by the powerful winds. Some of those gusts got up to 80 miles an hour.

“That was about as scared as I ever was of being in one place,” Berkheimer said. “Our cabin was actually shaking. We're inside here and it was shaking.”

Berkheimer, his wife and one of the other families are back in the cabin, while the other two are still in the motel with the hope that the situation is getting better.

“It doesn't look bad as of right now, but they're calling for the wind to pick up again real bad tonight, but then they're calling for a lot of rain too, so we feel we're going to be alright,” he said.

Even though the fire is still active, Berkheimer says they are still going to stick to the original plan, which is to stay put where they are for the whole week.