"Smoke everywhere": Tennessee wildfire ravages tourist mecca of Gatlinburg

Survivors are describing a hellish scene inside the deadly Tennessee wildfire zone.

The largest fire to hit Tennessee in a century killed four people, injured about four dozen, and destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings. The flames drove more than 14,000 people from the Great Smoky Mountain tourist city of Gatlinburg, which is still under curfew.

Crews have been battling the fires since late Monday night. Hurricane force winds drove the fast spreading fire, and dozens of hot spots are still burning, reports CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan.

Parts of Gatlinburg, Tennessee look like a scorched ghost town, with more than 150 destroyed homes and businesses. An official with the Tennessee Department of Transportation shot video showing the damage. 

“Some of the structures along this road look fine, but then as you get a little bit higher, it tells another story,” said the official in the video.

The flames hollowed out homes and buildings. Many people forced to evacuate sought refuge in Red Cross shelters. Greg Lanham and his family spent the night in one shelter after escaping the fire. 

“You’re looking out of every window you can, you’re watching for a glow in the distance. There’s smoke everywhere,” Lanham said.

The terrifying scene as they left was similar to what many encountered on the evacuation route. Thick smoke blanketed the roads as the flames crept closer. 

“Is it going to reach this? Is it going to explode while we’re in traffic? What’s going to happen? You just don’t know,” Lanham said. 

Shari and Daniel Deason moved to Gatlinburg from Mississippi about a month and a half ago. They only had time to grab their 14-month-old son, William, and his diaper bag.

“We don’t know what to do, or what we’re going to do if we don’t have anywhere to go,” Shari Deason said. 

Officials say more than 400 emergency workers from multiple departments are working on putting out the fire and clearing debris.

“I’ve gotten calls from the governor of every surrounding state saying how can we help,” said Governor Bill Haslam.  

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner is trying to aid his community, while dealing with his own devastation. “I had an opportunity to drive through town and confirm the fact that my house was gone and… my business of 31 years is gone,” Werner said.

Strong storms and heavy rain moved through the night, possibly helping firefighters, but many here have yet to make it back to their property to see if it survived or not.