Mixed emotions as East Tennessee residents return home

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. -- A mix of emotions in East Tennessee as the people who live there continue coping with the devastating wildfires.

Friday was the first day homeowners were allowed beyond the barriers into Gatlinburg to check on their homes.

"My biggest thing was my mother's ashes. It's all I wanted. Everything else in that house is replaceable," said Anthony Lent.

The places and things in the community they once knew were turned to dust. The next stop was home.

"My stomach was in a knot. I didn't really want to turn the corner and see it. But when I seen my home standing I fell to my knees and started praying to God in my living room."

It's the first glimpse of light in a dark situation. This family considered one of the lucky ones.

"I started praying for all of the people that don't have nothing left. It's very sad."

But the work is not over for first responders. Many are still in the Smokies treating hot spots and assessing the damage.

"It grew a lot faster than I think anyone could have predicted," said Josh O'Conner with US Fish and Wildlife.

On Friday, crews were out checking the burned soil just to see if it's still hot. If it is they have to use tools to dig it up and hopefully prevent another fire from happening.

A fire that killed people and destroyed anything standing in its tracks. One that now has a community standing together, helping each other out and giving hugs when needed.

"We're strong, we're resilient, and we will rebuild."

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