Multiple fires burning in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are raging in the Smoky Mountain area and threatening surrounding cities including Pigeon Forge where Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is located. CNN reports that there are at least 14 fires currently burning in the Gatlinburg area, stoked by strong winds.
Terrified Tennessee residents took to Twitter to try to provide updates on evacuations of Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. Several users posted pictures and video of the fire’s carnage.
— JAW (@JenWilds1) November 29, 2016
There are dozens of brave men/women fighting this fire. Pray for #Gatlinburg pic.twitter.com/0SdC6MYf0y
— Treyton (@treyton) November 29, 2016
— Wolfgang (@Wolfie5684) November 29, 2016
One video in particular showed a first person account as they tried to flee Gatlinburg in their vehicle as the fire raged alongside them and the darkness and smoke obscured their visibility.
(Warning: Some readers may be offended by offensive language.)
According to ABC News in Philadelphia, it has been suggested that visitors staying in Dolly Parton’s Dollywood cabins were also told to evacuate. A spokesperson for Ms. Parton stated that fire crews were working to protect the structures of the theme park and thus far, the Gatlinburg fire was about eight miles away from the gates of Dollywood.
Dolly Parton was born and raised in Sevierville, Tennessee, about 14 miles from Gatlinburg. Parton often reflected on her upbringing and childhood in her song lyrics, including one of her more prominent singles, “Smoky Mountain Memories.”
Parton opened her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, a small town nestled right between her childhood home of Sevierville and the city of Gatlinburg, in 1986. Approximately 2.5 million people visit Dollywood annually.
On Sunday, Parton lent her voice to the National Parks Department in an effort to help fight forest fires. Dolly teamed up with Smokey the Bear in a public service announcement with the hope of spreading fire prevention of awareness. Of course, Parton couldn’t have predicted that the current fire situation would turn so dire.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is mountain resort town known for being the entrance for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sweeping winds of up to 74 mph and a significant drought that has dried out much of the foliage have made it difficult for firefighters to stave off the fire and protect the area. The mandatory evacuation order came at 9:03 p.m. EST and was issued to Gatlinburg and all of its surrounding communities, including Pigeon Forge where Dollywood is located. Thus far, no deaths have been reported.
According to the Knoxville Sentinel, multiple structures have been destroyed by the fires in Gatlinburg, including homes, major hotels, and small businesses. There are an estimated 40 to 50 volunteer firefighting units from southern and eastern Tennessee fighting the blaze. The infamous Gatlinburg Space Needle which provides a 360 degree view of the Smoky Mountains is said to be still be intact.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced multiple closures throughout the day of the more than 500,000 acre park that covers parts of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Please see our park website for a full list of road, trail, and backcountry campsite closures due to the current fire conditions. pic.twitter.com/NFEiOXhp06
— GreatSmokyNPS (@GreatSmokyNPS) November 28, 2016
Due to continued erratic winds, the fires are very unpredictable and more fire growth is expected. pic.twitter.com/BYd9ANQeT4
— GreatSmokyNPS (@GreatSmokyNPS) November 29, 2016
Reports indicate that National Guard troops will be moved to the area to help remove debris, but no timeline for that aid has been established. For now, Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller is relying on divine intervention.
“If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,” Miller told the media Monday night.
[Featured Image by Erik Schelzig)/AP Images]