A devastating wildfire spread rapidly into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on Monday night, fueled by exceptional drought and strong wind. By early Monday evening, evacuation orders had been issued and thousands of residents fled, knowing — in all likelihood — it was the last time they would ever see their homes.

Michael Luciano posted his harrowing escape on Facebook. Giant flames lick the side of the truck as they plow through debris and thick smoke. Sparks fly and the driver of the truck plows over branches and downed trees to get to safety.

The town of Gatlinburg, with a population of about 4,000 about 43 miles south of Knoxville, is surrounded on three sides by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Wildfires have been burning in the park since last week, but strong winds pushed the fire north and east on Monday.

The Smokies, part of the Appalachian mountain range, straddle the border between eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. Considered the gateway city to the Tennessee side of the park, Gatlinburg draws more than 11 million visitors a year, according to tourism officials. It is known for its mountain chalets and ski lodge — drawing honeymooners and other visitors all year long.

Gatlinburg’s neighbor, Pigeon Forge, is home to the Dollywood theme park, country-themed music venues and attractions, and popular outlet malls.

The Post’s Michelle Gaps contributed to this post.