Gatlinburg, Tennessee is going up in flames, and Dollywood is at serious risk. The forced evacuation of over 14,000 people was followed by the loss of over 150 homes and many favorite tourist attractions. At least three people are dead and 12 injured. Inside Gatlinburg, 14 of the city’s 20 burned and still burning buildings remain ablaze according to the Knocksville News Sentinel.
Dolly Parton’s theme park Dollywood remains at risk but has not yet been touched by the fires that surround it. It seems Dolly Parton’s Dollywood may be spared, though an eerie orange glow at one point engulfed the now evacuated park.
In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and elsewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains, a combination of drought, dry woods, 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts, and raging wildfires have proved hard to contain this season. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and many areas of the southeast have gone over a month without significant rain.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Fire Chief Greg Miller requested prayer earlier this morning as a firefighting force of locals and firefighters from across the U.S. attacked the wind-driven flames, according to CNN.
“If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,”
The Gatlinburg, Tennessee, fire chief reported progress later in the morning to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“This is a fire for the history books. The likes of this has never been seen here. But the worst is definitely over with.”
Dolly Parton’s theme park may be saved, but Dolly Parton’s “Tennessee Mountain Home” remains at serious risk as wildfires are raging throughout the Great Smoky Mountains in both Tennessee and North Carolina. The fires threatened Boone and Blowing Rock, home of Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park, earlier this week.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Sevier County have served as a spiritual retreat and resort area for surrounding areas for over half a century. The Gatlinburg convention center hosts a substantial number of fun conventions such as the Magic Convention and the Santa Convention. There is no word yet on the state of the convention center.
Dolly Parton was born in Sevier County. Dolly Parton built Dollywood in celebration of the mountain culture, and to help tourists enjoy themselves.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is among many areas hit hard by wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains according to ABC News 13 WLOS out of Ashville. The Forest Service announced Sunday that there are 24 large wildfires raging over 130,000 acres in the Southern U.S. Most of the fires are in the mountains of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has definitely lost the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa and the mayor’s own house according to ABC 7 Chicago. A 16-story hotel has also been severely damaged. Thankfully, the Ripley’s Aquarium, building survived the fire, as 10,000 sea creatures were abandoned during the forced evacuation of the aquarium employees.
Dolly Parton is heartbroken by the fires impacting her neighbors in Tennessee, according to WBIR.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe, It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Pigeon Forge; Dollywood; and Dolly Parton’s hometown Sevierville are all within a dozen or so miles of each other. All are still at some risk of the intense flames of the windswept fire, but it is now believed Dollywood is safe.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s streets were “hellish” according to some witnesses and frightened evacuees experienced terrifying drives through fire-lined streets and roads, essentially fleeing in terror.
Dolly Parton echoes the prayers of natives and tourists alike as she speaks of prayer for the area. Rarely in modern times has a prayer for rain been so heartfelt.
“We are hoping and praying for rain to come save our sweet home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.”
It would seem that Dolly Parton and friends have that prayer answered as finally and miraculously rain has come and more is on its way to the region, according to weather reports. Firefighters only hope that the rain, coupled with their efforts, will be enough to save the mountain towns and forests.
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Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Great Smoky Mountains have served as more than a resort. Hearts are breaking as those who have always considered Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains a spiritual refuge and place of rejuvenation watch the fire in great sorrow. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge provides a holiday for those who love the intense spiritual feel of these mountain towns. It also serves as home for many Tennessee mountain natives who have lived in these hills for generations.
For Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Dolly Parton; Dollywood employees; tourists; and those who live in the Smoky Mountains, the rain is truly a miracle.
[Featured Image by Wade Payne/AP Images]