Cat alerts owner to Tennessee wildfires

The wildfires across Gatlinburg, Tennessee, have led to deaths and devastation in the state's Great Smoky Mountains region.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Mark Burger, 60, a gift shop owner, was relying on a mobile alert should the wildfires get so bad that he needed to evacuate. No such alerts were sent.

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"I never did get the evacuation alert and Monday the fire seemed far enough away from downtown and the condos on hillsides nearby that I thought it was likely it would be contained before it threatened the city," Burger said.

Burger said his usually calm cat Tiger stared at the window and would pace back and forth. Tiger ran to Burger and ran back to the door, doing so over and over again to get his owner's attention.

"I figured I might as well take out the trash and take a look to see if an animal like a raccoon might be making Tiger nervous," Burger said. "When I got across the lot, I could see the flames all over the mountains across from my condo."

Related: Wildfires ravage Tennessee: 5 things to know

Burger quickly packed a bag, his medicine and he and Tiger left in the car. After waiting four hours in a line of cars, they made it out.

Burger's gift shop and condo were intact.

"He's a pretty great cat," Burger said.

According to a report from the News Sentinel, the order to evacuate was never sent to cellphones in Gatlinburg.

John Mathews, director of the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, said in a news conference Friday that, as he understood, an evacuation alert was sent on mobile phones, but that was not the case.

Anthony Cavallucci, Morristown, Tennessee, National Weather Service warning coordination manager, said that radio and TV alerts were issued announcing evacuation but that the NWS can only send mobile phone alerts for warnings tied to weather-specific events like flash floods and tornados. Civil emergencies like evacuation do not apply.

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