Inferno forces evacuations in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge

The city of Pigeon Forge said early Tuesday morning that approximately 100 firefighters from 15 additional stations throughout East Tennessee are battling the blazes.

GATLINBURG - 5 a.m. Tuesday UPDATE: Authorities rescued 29 backcountry hikers from wildfires in Sevier County, according to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash.

Cash said there were not any major injuries or fatalities as of 5 a.m. Tuesday. There is one report of an evacuee suffering a burn injury. 

"I've been in federal service for 25 years, and I've fought fires on the West Coast and the East Coast and been with the Forest Service as well," Cash said. "Nothing that we've experienced in the 24 hours has prepared for what we've experienced here in the last 24 hours. (It's) been just unbelievable what we've experienced here."

Cash called the wildfires "unprecedented."

Cash said Gatlinburg fire officials said winds reached up to 80 mph. Winds sustained at 30-40 mph about 10-12 hours. The winds coupled with the 500-acre wildfire in Gatlinburg, according to Cash.

Watch: Cassius Cash provides update on Gatlinburg fires on Tuesday morning

3 a.m. Tuesday UPDATE: Approximately 500 people were evacuated from Pigeon Forge Monday night as wildfires continue to burn around the city. 

The city of Pigeon Forge said early Tuesday morning that approximately 100 firefighters from 15 additional stations throughout East Tennessee are battling the blazes. More are expected to arrive Tuesday. 

Sevier County officials currently estimate about 100 homes are impacted in the county with 10 homes impacted in Gatlinburg from the fire.

Crews are working to contain multiple active fires around the city and in nearby Gatlinburg. Power outages are being reported in various areas of the city. 

Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said emergency crews will begin damage assessment of the area at daybreak. 

A few schools systems will be closed Tuesday, including Greene, McMinn and Sevier county schools. Cocke County schools run two hours late.

TEMA officials are on site in Sevier County providing support to local agencies. Fire crews are working closely with a number of state agencies and the military in battling the fire.

Right now, the Tennessee National Guard  is mobilizing 100 personnel with helping first responders, removing debris and assisting in welfare checks.

Fire departments from as far north as Greenville to as far south as McMinn County are sending 50 to 60 fire apparatuses to help. The Department of Health is coordinating to send medical units to assist with transports.

More than 1,200 people have been sheltered at the Gatlinburg Community Center and the Rocky Top Sports Park.

Donations are being accepted at the Pigeon Forge Fire Hall Station 1 at 3229 Rena Street.

Sevier County reports that 12,509 people have lost power.

Click here for the latest updates from TEMA

Midnight UPDATE: There are currently 30 structures on fire in Gatlinburg as residents and guests evacuate the city. 

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency issued a level three state of emergency. TEMA said 30 structures are on fire, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments in Gatlinburg. The wildfire is also at the edge of the Dollywood property

Mandatory evacuations are in place in Gatlinburg in:

·         Downtown Gatlinburg

·         Ski Mountain

·         Mynatt Park

·         Cartertown Road

·         East Foothills

·         Westgate Community

Evacuations have also been ordered for the north end of Pigeon Forge, specifically between traffic light 8 and the Spur.

There are no reports of fatalities from the fires, according to TEMA. There is one report of an evacuee suffering a burn injury. 

There are reports of downed power lines and trees, TEMA said. 

The Tennessee National Guard is deploying personnel to Sevier County to help with clearing debris. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Department of Transportation are assisting with evacuations and traffic control in the area. 

Tennessee's Fire Mutual Aid system is coordinating the arrival of 50 to 60 fire apparatuses from fire departments throughout the area, from as far north as Greeneville and as far south as McMinn County, TEMA said. 


GALLERY: Fires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

11 p.m. Monday UPDATE: Motorists fleeing wildfires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge packed roads in and out of the towns Monday night as flames and choking smoke driven by wind swept across the area. 

Multiple parts of Gatlinburg including downtown Gatlinburg were being evacuated, fire officials said Monday night.

The town set up an evacuation shelter at the Gatlinburg Community Center at 156 Proffitt Road. An evacuation center also was set up at Rocky Top Sports World near Gatlinburg Pittman High School on Highway 321.

Some areas of Pigeon Forge also were being evacuated including residents and guests located in the areas between traffic light 8 and the Spur, according to spokeswoman Trish McGee.

"Three county school buses are available for emergency transport and are being dispatched as needed to transport those who need to evacuate," according to a statement from McGee.

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Farther west, fires also were reported above Wears Valley Road near the Dollar General Store. A viewer sent 10News video of the hillside aflame.

In Gatlinburg, National Park Service and Gatlinburg officials stressed the fire posed a serious threat that would not abate until rains came. Evacuees were being shifted to the Gatlinburg.

"We urge the public to pray. We urge the public to stay off the highways. The traffic that is on the roads is emergency equipment. If (the public) could just stay home and stay tuned to their local media outlet," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said at a 8:30 p.m. press conference.

In Gatlinburg, other areas under a mandatory evacuation include Mynatt Park Neighborhood, East Foothills Road, Turkey Nest Road and Davenport Road areas. The Savage Gardens areas also are under mandatory evacuation.

Police are going to the area to get people out. City officials urged everyone to get out.

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Gatlinburg city officials said high winds were downing power lines, sparking multiple ground fires.

Multiple agencies were responding to the fires in Gatlinburg including the Knoxville Fire Department. Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Ogle said she understood the Karns Volunteer Fire Department also was responding.

Fire officials decided about 6 p.m. to impose the evacuation, according to Ogle.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said he couldn't over-emphasize the seriousness of the fire's threat.

To help with Pigeon Force evacuations, three county school buses were available for emergency transport and were being dispatched as needed to transport those who need to evacuate, according to a release from 

The following locations are open and ready to receive those who need shelter: LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, Pigeon Forge Community Center, Liberty Baptist Church in Wears Valley and Iglesia Cristiana LaDuz De Jesus.

Also open for evacuations: The First Red Bank Baptist Church in Sevierville and First Baptist Church of Sevierville.

Sevier County Schools are closed Tuesday due to the fires, the school district said on its website.

Great Smoky Mountains Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said the fires posed a "very serious situation."

Authorities could not provide an estimate on the total acreage that was burning.

"I know that it's hard to potentially think about losing a home or a place that you've worked your entire life to build, but we are dealing with a situation that is very dynamic," Miller said. "The wind is not helping us. The rain is not here yet."

Authorities are hoping that rain expected Monday night will ultimately douse the spreading wildfires.

PREVIOUS UPDATE: City of Gatlinburg officials have declared a mandatory evacuation of several areas in the city due to the threat of a nearby fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The Mynatt Park Neighborhood, Savage Gardens, East Foothills Road, Turkey Nest Road and Davenport Road areas are included in the immediate mandatory evacuation. 

RELATED: Chimney Tops fire sends heavy smoke into Gatlinburg

A Red Cross Evacuation Shelter has been set up at the Gatlinburg Community Center at 156 Proffitt Road. Residents needing transportation to the shelter may request assistance by calling the Gatlinburg Police Department at 865-436-5181. 

Service animals are allowed at the evacuation shelter.

Gatlinburg Fire Department officials say the threat is from a spot fire in the Twin Creeks area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park combined with low humidity and windy conditions. 

Fire officials said fallen trees have sparked multiple fires in Gatlinburg from downed power lines. Fire departments from multiple agencies are assisting. 

The National Park Service notified the city around 11:45 a.m. that the Chimney Tops Trail fire created a new fire near Mynatt Park. The fire is still inside the national park, but the park service notified the city since it is near a residential area. 

Smoke and ash from the fire have created poor visibility in Gatlinburg since Monday morning. 

Gatlinburg police officers are going door to door asking residents in the Mynatt neighborhood to voluntarily evacuate to the Red Cross Shelter, city officials said. 

Dana Soehn, a spokesperson for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said over 100 people from various agencies are working the fire and monitoring its movements. They are expecting another 80 firefighters and engines from seven different counties to arrive Tuesday to provide additional support fighting the fire.

The origins of the fire are unknown, but the park has set up a tipline at 865-436-1580 for anyone who has information about the cause of the fires. 

Soehn urged visitors to honor the burn ban that is in place in the park. There is a complete ban on burning of any campfires or charcoal grills. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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