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GATLINBURG, Tenn. — As soon as it came out of the smoker, the meat was slapped on a bun, packed up, and delivered to those who needed it most.

“We’re feeding the first responders — we’re feeding whoever needs it to keep this thing going,” John Wheeler said.

Wheeler owns the Memphis BBQ Company in Desoto County, Mississippi.

However, he was running things on the ground in Gatlinburg on Sunday.

Wheeler is working with Operation BBQ Relief along with a half dozen other Mid-Southerners and volunteers from across the country.

“We’ve responded to a lot of things — floods, tornadoes. Never a fire. To think about the people up here — especially when you get up here, you realize how hard it is to get down,” the business owner told WREG.

The organization Wheeler is hoped to bring some comfort in the wake of devastation — using chicken, pork, and beef.

“It just soothes the soul,” he said. “You want to help out your fellow man, and I’ll tell you it’s amazing the people that come out and the work they do and how hard they work.”

Operation BBQ Relief operates completely off of donations and volunteers.

To help the group out, visit