The mayor of Sevier County, Tennessee, stated that a historic wildfire continued to burn on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Flames destroyed hundreds of businesses and homes. It then forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in Gatlinburg, as the copious wildfire engulfed the Smokey Mountains.
High-speed winds belted wildfire and destroyed at least 150 homes. Over 14,000 residents were evacuated from Gatlinburg. Additionally, approximately 2,000 people sought refuge in emergency shelters.
National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Roberts stated that around three-fourths of an inch of beneficial rain landed in the region instantly. The rain had a dramatic effect on the fires in the county. Another inch of rain is expected later Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Larry Waters explained that he has no information on people who suffered from the wildfire. The mayor stated that the authorities are trying to communicate with residents to determine their status.
Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller stated that the fire is very historical. There have never been similar wildfires in the county. He believes that the majority of the damage has already occurred.
The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency specified that the Westgate Resorts have been obliterated. Also, Black Bear Fall was thought to have lost every cabin. There are over 100 structures in the resort.
The Washington Post reported that a calamity of a wildfire overwhelmed two tourist towns close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It displaced thousands of residents and visitors. The wildfire shut down one of the nation’s most famed natural attractions, and it destroyed much of the surrounding timberlands.
On Tuesday officials declared that the engulfed flames have injured 14 people and have killed others. At this moment the victims have not been identified. Although, the search and rescue efforts were ongoing through the county. Authorities stated on late Tuesday afternoon that some areas are still considered to be unreachable.
Officials explained that the massive wildfire has forced an exodus of 14,000 people. It then left a devastating number building shells. In a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner declared that people’s lives were dependant on leaving the area.
The fatal wildfire began on the Chimney Tops Mountain, which is one of the most well-renowned hiking destinations on the Smokey Mountain Range. Emergency officials stated that the mountain top was still in flames. The wildfire grew due to dry vegetation and strong winds. Flames quickly spread to the resort cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. They were moving too far and fast to hold them in one location.
Miles said that the Chimney Tops fire began to ignite on Monday night. Winds began to climb to 87 miles-per-hour. It was pushed power lines and trees to the ground and carried away fiery embers. Officials at the national park declared that the extensive amount of fallen trees and fires caused the temporary closure to the well-loved American national park.
A dense, fanning, weighty smoke was seen overhead in downtown Gatlinburg. As the ash began to rain down and panic was in the air.
Local resident Brittany Martel stated that people were seen on the road. There were no tourists seen walking about town. It looked like a deserted ghost town after the tourists and locals had vanished. Martel cited that she was frightened and concerned about the sudden change in her surroundings after the wildfire engulfed the Smoky Mountains.
By John A. Federico
Edited by Cathy Milne
USA Today: Extent of Tennessee fire damage comes into grim focus
The Washington Post: ‘People were basically running for their lives’: At least 3 dead as fires engulf Tennessee towns
Yahoo News: ‘The mountains are burning down’: Wildfires ravage Gatlinburg’s tight-knit community
Image Courtesy of Waldemar Merger’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License