Gatlinburg buildings ablaze, part of 500 acre fire

The main strip in Gatlinburg, usually crammed with tourists, is mostly empty as smoke and ash descends on the town, according to CBS affiliate WDEF. @MARCOTVNEWS/CBS AFFILIATE WDEF

GATLINBURG, Tenn. A place that many Alabamians love dearly is in dire straits this morning.

Emergency officials in Tennessee say a wildfire has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel, and is at the edge of the Dollywood theme park.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener says in a news release Monday night that mandatory evacuations were underway for areas in and around Gatlinburg, including the south part of Pigeon Forge, where Dolly Parton’s theme park is.

Flener said strong afternoon winds fanned the wildfire on land in the great Smoky Mountains National Park to move quickly onto private property.

That fire is now burning 500 acres, CBS affiliate WDEF reported.

TEMA said no deaths have been reported.


The National Guard has been mobilized to Sevier County, CBS affiliate WVLT reported.

Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park issued an air quality advisory Monday. Fires are now in the Pittman Center, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg areas.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now closed, WVLT reported.

A representative with the park said the air quality is unhealthy for the Sevier County section of the park and adjacent areas, especially in the Gatlinburg area due to heavy smoke from the nearby Chimney 2 Fire. The Sevier County Humane Society said all animals are safe.

Storms roaring across the South appeared to be taking aim at some of the largest wildfires burning across the region, which could finally help firefighters in their efforts to subdue the blazes, authorities said Monday.

As the storm system passed over Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee late Monday, it was heading toward some of largest wildfires in Georgia and North Carolina.

The rain forecast “puts the bull’s-eye of the greatest amounts right at the bull’s-eye of where we’ve been having our greatest activity,” said Dave Martin, deputy director of operations for fire and aviation management with the southern region of the U.S. Forest Service.

The projected rainfall amounts “really lines up with where we need it,” Martin said Monday. “We’re all knocking on wood.”

Yet after weeks of punishing drought, any rain that falls should be soaked up quickly, forecasters said. It will provide some relief but won’t end the drought — or the fire threat, they say.

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