Mental health experts said that escaping a fire-filled forest, as thousands did on November 28 in the Great Smoky Mountains, can be more traumatic than disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes.
One reason: Flames that scorched neighborhoods in the Gatlinburg area spread so rapidly that people had no time to brace for it.
Experts said that survivors of the wildfires now face many dangers, including suicide, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse.
Valerie Cole of the American Red Cross, who helped victims of a devastating wildfire in Canada, said that depression, anxiety, and other problems might not show up for some people until months after the disaster.
Cole said the images of flames draped across homes could haunt residents of the Gatlinburg area for a very long time.