June 16, 2017 Gatlinburg, Tenn. —Dean Cato called with growing worry. Once, twice, six times, he says, he called the Gatlinburg authorities Nov. 28 to ask if the raining ash from forest fires meant he should leave his home.
Stay put, he says they told him. It’s just smoke.
When he looked outside and saw the flames leaping over the ridge behind his house, he, his wife, and 14-year-old son ran to their two cars and raced away as the fire tasted their home.
Careening down the Tennessee mountain road, flames on both sides, the tires on his wife’s Jeep melted. His daughter’s pet rabbits – she was staying with her grandmother – perished. His house was left in ashes.
Mr. Cato is furious with local authorities. And he says he has gotten no help from them since the fire. He quit work to build his home again. But on a recent …