Mayor Talks About Losing Home, Business to Deadly Wildfires in Eastern Tennessee

PHOTO: Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner is interviewed in Gatlinburg, Tenn. on Nov. 30, 2016. Werner lost the home he built himself along with all seven buildings of the condominium business he owns. PlayMark Humphrey/AP Photo
WATCH Gatlinburg Mayor Loses Home in Tennessee Wildfires

The mayor of a small mountain town in eastern Tennessee is among those who tragically lost their homes and businesses in deadly wildfires that have scorched the state.

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In an emotional interview with local ABC affiliate WATE on Thursday, Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner talked about how his family and the community have been trying to cope with the loss and devastation. The wildfires engulfed Werner's house, which he built himself, along with all seven buildings of the condominium business he owns.

"We lost our home, we lost our business," Werner told WATE. "I call it a huge bump in the road. But our family’s safe, everybody’s healthy, we all love each other."

PHOTO: Small wildfires linger in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Dec. 1, 2016.Michael Patrick/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
Small wildfires linger in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Dec. 1, 2016.

The father of seven said his children and wife have been the cornerstone of his support system. Werner, who visited a shelter on Thursday, said he has also kept his focus on helping Gatlinburg residents who have lost everything.

"We just came from the shelter over here and just had a chance to tell people, you know, 'Don’t worry.' Like my mama used to tell me, 'Everything’s going to be OK,'" the mayor told WATE. "So I think that’s how I’m getting through this, is focusing more on others than myself because so many other people are in the same boat."

PHOTO: Richard T. Ramsey and Sue Ramsey hold hands while looking at the skyline from the remains of their house of 41 years, Dec. 1, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP
Richard T. Ramsey and Sue Ramsey hold hands while looking at the skyline from the remains of their house of 41 years, Dec. 1, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Werner fought back tears when describing the tight-knit community of Gatlinburg, a popular resort area, and the resilience of its residents.

"The people of this area, it's like a family," he told WATE. "There's people that bend over backward. I get emotional when people ask me what I can do for you because, you know, we're fine. You know, we're going to be OK. We've had friends open their house to us. We've had so many people offer places where we can live. But I'm just thankful that we're here to be able to try to help everybody; that's our goal."

Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Ogle also lost her home in the fires, according to WATE.

PHOTO: Richard T. Ramsey looks over the remains of the house that he had lived in for 41 years, Dec. 1, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP
Richard T. Ramsey looks over the remains of the house that he had lived in for 41 years, Dec. 1, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Officials said at a press conference Tuesday that some 150 structures were damaged or destroyed in all of Sevier County, which encompasses Gatlinburg.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has called the wildfires the state’s largest in 100 years.

The blazes, which officials believe were “human-caused,” have burned more than 17,100 acres of land in eastern Tennessee, killing at least 13 people and injuring 85 others. All of the fires were extinguished as of Thursday afternoon, though officials said a few “hot spots” remain.

“People were basically running for their lives,” Werner said at a press conference Tuesday.

ABC News’ Avianne Tan contributed to this report.

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