Thousands evacuated, buildings burned in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Arrowmont School of the Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg (Bill May via WATE)
Arrowmont School of the Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg (Bill May via WATE)

UPDATE:

GATLINBURG, TN – Thousands of people have been evacuated as homes and buildings continue to burn, despite rain falling, in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported hundreds of structures have been damaged by the fires in Sevier County as of 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

The agency reports it’s likely 14,000 people were evacuated just from Gatlinburg. Rain has been falling in the fire areas, but officials say buildings continue to burn or remain engulfed. Crews don’t believe the rain will provide immediate relief.

TEMA corrected an earlier report that Ober Gatlinburg was destroyed by fire after video showed the facilities intact on Tuesday.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge suffered extensive damage from the Chimney Top Fire after high winds forced the flames onto private property on Monday.

Three people have suffered severe burns in the fire and were sent to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. A fourth burn victim is being evaluated at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Hospital.

There were 11,595 power outages as of 9:00 a.m. Tuesday in Sevier County. Sevier and Green County schools are closed and numerous roads are shut down.

ORIGINAL STORY

GATLINBURG, Tenn. – More than 100 firefighters have been mobilized in Sevier County in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to fight a large wildfire.

At least 100 homes in Sevier County have been impacted including 30 different structure fires in Gatlinburg. A 16-story hotel on Regan Drive also caught on fire and the Driftwood Apartments near the Park Vista Hotel were fully engulfed. More than 12,000 people are without power.

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The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday night to secure a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for the Chimney Top Mountain fire, which caused the wildfire outbreak in Sevier County.

Officials said in a morning news conference they will not try to gauge how large or how many new fires are burning until the sun comes up on Tuesday.

Highway 441 into downtown Gatlinburg is closed to everyone except emergency personnel. However, the highway is open for people trying to evacuate.

One person trying to evacuate was burned, but there have been no other reports of injuries.

At least 500 evacuees were in a Red Cross shelter at the Laconte Event Center Monday night in Pigeon Forge. Tuesday morning there were still more than 100 people taking shelter.

There are also different animal shelters that are watching evacuees’ pets while families stay in the shelters.

The employees of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies have also evacuated. The attraction’s general manager Ryan DeSear spoke to News 2 sister station WATE. He said the evacuation was caused by the smoke from nearby fires.

The aquarium has taken safety measures to make sure the animals are not harmed or suffer from smoke inhalation. Ripley’s is built on a bunker and had power at the time of the evacuation.

The Historic Gatlinburg Inn and the skylift in downtown Gatlinburg are still standing and have not burned despite rumors on social media