After a wildfire invaded his neighborhood, Michael Luciano of Gatlinburg Tennessee hopped into his friend’s pickup and prayed that he and his buddy might somehow make it through the burning forest and down the mountain to safety. The video he recorded of their escape from Hell On Earth is a genuine nightmare.
In eastern Tennessee, wildfires starting in Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread quickly with the help to high winds and drought, engulfing nearby resort towns like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Michael Luciano has a house in Chalet village, a cabin community in Gatlinburg, and he posted a number of videos to his Facebook page showing the entire community ablaze. Here’s his escape from that inferno:
The entire video is a thriller. All throughout, the driver struggles to see the road, but Michael insists that he must keep driving, saying “Just hit the fucking gas you’re on pavement!”
They continue driving down the road, passing houses completely in flames, and running over trees in fear that, if they stop, the truck’s tires will melt, leaving the two and their dog stranded in the oven-like forest.
At one point in the video, the two men in the pickup got lost and had to turn around in the middle of the forest fire as heat radiated into their truck. They eventually ran into a downed tree that they feared would trap them on the mountain, unable to drive down to safety. Without much of a choice, the two decide to plow their third-generation Dodge Ram into the tree; their gamble worked, and the truck successfully make it to safety.
At one point near the end of the video, Luciano scolds a driver whose car remained stationary, blocking the road. On his Facebook page, Luciano claims he was only helping the man, saying:
The car blocking us in the previous video was an older man who could not see and had no motivation at all to get down the mountain, he had stopped and given up claiming he could not see. I told him to move over (off video) and we would go around him and he could follow our tail lights out as a guide down the mountain. I was screaming and yelling, cursing at him that got him motivated to start moving again. It worked he followed us down the mountain to safety using our tail lights as a guide! Wow!!!
Michael, his friend and their dog made it to safety on that fateful Monday night, but since then, Michael struggled to get past roadblocks to see the condition of his house. He eventually made it back to his abode today, and was happy to see it was still standing:
According to ABC News, this eastern Tennessee wildfire has claimed the lives of seven people, injured 53, scorched over 15,500 acres of land, damaged more than 700 homes, and sent thousands fleeing for their lives. Michael was among those thousands, and he made it out okay. But only narrowly.