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Returning to the Smokies 6 months after a deadly wildfire

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/6/2017 By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press

GATLINBURG, Tennessee (AP) — A deadly wildfire last November scorched a path in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains region. Tourism is the area's only industry and many businesses say revenues have been down.

Fourteen people died in the fire and more than 2,400 structures were damaged or destroyed.

But overall, businesses, attractions and the mountains are seeing signs of growth again. Tourism officials say their biggest challenge is the false perception that the fire has devastated the Smokies.

The reality is that many tourist businesses, from go-kart parks and mini-golf to restaurants and theaters, were unscathed. And while hundreds of rental properties were damaged, plenty of cabins, hotels and other lodging are available.

Much of the burned debris has been removed, foliage is returning to the trees and a seven-story Margaritaville resort is rising in Gatlinburg.

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