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Local agencies respond to Smoky Mountain fires

Xavier Smith • Nov 29, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Local emergency response agencies have committed several vehicles and personnel to help battle intense fires that have threatened to alter the image of the Great Smoky Mountains this week.

Wilson County Emergency Response Agency and Lebanon and Mt. Juliet fire departments have committed to send reinforcements to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area to help other local and state agencies.

“Wilson County has been asked to provide mutual aid to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge community. In the spirit of the season we are, as always, ready and glad to assist,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said.

WEMA, Mt. Juliet and Lebanon will send the following to the area to help aid local emergency responders: DART Team with six volunteers; Lebanon fire engine with eight personnel; Lebanon fire chief’s vehicle; Mt. Juliet ladder truck with six personnel; WEMA brush truck with two people; WEMA ambulance with two people and WEMA EMS Strike team.

“This is a place we all know and love. We all have visited this area throughout the years and have, no doubt, made countless memoires with family and friends. Please continue to keep the people of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge in your thoughts and prayers. Also, please pray for the safety of our volunteers and staff as they assist those in need,” Hutto said.

Watch one resident’s daring escape through the flames:

 

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials said state agencies and local officials evacuated thousands of residents and visitors from Sevier County on Monday night due to wildfires in-and-around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Officials estimated more than 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg alone.

Officials said the source of the blaze, the Chimney Top Fire, began in the Great Smoky Mountains and spread quickly yesterday evening due to high winds. There is little hope the rainfall in the area will bring immediate relief.

TEMA officials said three people with severe burns were transferred from University of Tennessee’s Knoxville hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight. A fourth with burns to their face continues to be evaluated in Knoxville.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said three have died from the fires and about a dozen have been injured. 

Several businesses, residences and structures, including homes in the Cobbly Knob area, Cupid’s Chapel of Love, portions of Dollywood (excluding the park), Hillbilly Golf, and more than 100 other structures received some type of damage or were destroyed in the fire. 

“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,” Dolly Parton said. 

“The destruction caused by the wildfires in east Tennessee is tragic. Our hearts go out to all those affected in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of our state’s most treasured natural resources,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “We will do all we can in the coming days and weeks to help these communities rebuild and recover. The state has worked with local officials to provide a coordinated, multi-agency response to help evacuate residents and visitors and contain the fires, and we are grateful to the emergency personnel who have worked tirelessly to help in these efforts.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help buy supplies and needs for Gatlinburg fire victims and evacuees at www.gofundme.com/gatlinburg-wildfires-supplies.

 

Support and prayers for the area have come from thousands of people in the last few days:

 

 

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