Strong winds combined with the worst drought the southeast has seen in a decade have caused 14 or more wildfires burning in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee to gain intensity and continue to destroy the region.
The Gatlinburg Fire Department ordered the mandatory evacuation of downtown Gatlinburg as wind conditions worsened, and several fires have grown increasingly more dangerous.
No fatalities have been reported but the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said that three people with severe burns were transferred from University of Tennessee’s Knoxville hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight and A fourth with facial burns continues to be evaluated at the hospital in Knoxville.
TEMA said Tuesday that “very preliminary surveys of damaged areas” suggested that “hundreds of structures are lost.”
CNN reported that Ober Gatlinburg amusement park and ski area, the Black Bear Falls log-cabin rental resort, and the Westgate Mountain Resort & Spa appear to have been destroyed by the fires. Dollywood Theme Park has also been evacuated.
TEMA estimated that more than 14,000 visitors and residents have been evacuated from Gatlinburg, and thousands more are being forced to flee Pigeon Forge and other surrounding towns
According to Reuters, The fire exploded from just 10 acres Sunday night to over 500 acres by Monday night.
“Even with the rain that is currently falling there, the fires continue to burn and structures remain engulfed with little hope that the rainfall will bring immediate relief,” TEMA said Tuesday.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park closed all facilities in the park on Tuesday due to extensive fire activity and downed trees.
“If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said Monday evening.
A gut-wrenching video Michael Luciano took as he escaped the effected region shows just how bad the wildfires have become:
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