Christiansburg family left with memories after fires destroy Gatlinburg resort

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Tennessee emergency management leaders say at least seven people are now dead, another 45 hurt from the wildfires that have ripped across the Great Smoky Mountains.

More than 250 buildings and homes are damaged or destroyed.

The images of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge turned into an inferno are painful to see. A tourist destination where people feel like family is a scorched ghost town.

It's hard for Kim Buzzard to look at pictures and video of the destruction.

"It's very heartbreaking, sickening, and you just wonder yourself, how did it start," Buzzard said.

She's made trips there nearly every year with her family. Her mother used retirement money to buy a timeshare property at Westgate Resort in Gatlinburg in 1999.

This week fire left only a skeleton of the buildings and demolished dozens of cabins.

"How does it feel to see a place your family has poured so much money into just burn away?" WDBJ7 asked.

"Just devastation just thinking about the times we've spent there and of course the money that we have that is invested and of course my mother has invested, it's just devastating," Buzzard said.

The resort has become a home away from home for her, and her mother and sister.

"She has a lot of health problems, my sister does, and has to have a heart and lung transplant and it's been so nice to see her get away and the boys and to do things. There are other time shares through Westgate that we can go to but that's where she bought it, was in Tennessee. One of our favorite places," Buzzard said.

Westgate staff told her family the resort will rebuild. They've sent pictures to timeshare members and for the first time in its history, discouraged people from visiting.

"Got a lot of questions. Just wondering what's going to happen," Buzzard said.