Pigeon Forge, TN – The forest fire that once stretched across 300 acres dwindled down to less than a single acre after a full day of around-the-clock efforts and an evening rain Monday. The fire damaged over 70 cabins at the Black Bear Ridge Resort and several private structures sprinkled throughout the heavily forested area not far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Sevier County Emergency Management Director John Matthews told a local television station that people who want to check on their property and try to recover their belongings may be allowed back into their cabins today. The badly damaged areas will remain closed. Families lost a range of items, from clothes to expensive electronics and priceless mementos, but fortunately there was no loss of life.
The forest fire began as a house fire at around 4:00 pm on Sunday and peaked around 300 acres later that day. By Monday morning, crews had reduced the fire to half of its size, but the fire continued to break through containment and work its way up the hill. An evening rain arrived that reduced the fire to less than five acres. By Tuesday morning only a few scattered fires remained, consuming less than an acre.
Over 100 firefighters from up to 30 fire departments responded to the crisis from areas throughout East Tennessee. The Tennessee Army National Guard loaned two Black Hawk helicopters to the effort, which airlifted 60 loads of water from Douglas Lake to diminish the fire burning just outside Pigeon Forge. Only a few firefighters remained Tuesday morning to monitor the remains.
A state of emergency was declared Monday and the American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Pigeon Forge Community Center for residents displaced by the fire. Volunteers organized a command center at the local Calvary Baptist Church.
The majority of the cabins affected were lost. 59 cabins were completely destroyed, and another 16 were damaged. Those whose properties remain intact will be escorted to try to retrieve their things. Law enforcement will still maintain a quarantine around the cabins burned by the fire due to safety concerns.
Pigeon Forge is a resort city with a population of around 6,000. The city is home to Dollywood, the popular tourist attraction co-owned by Dolly Parton, which was never threatened by the fire. The bulk of the Pigeon Forge fire took place in the heavily forested mountainous area outside of town.
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