More than 500 evacuate Smokies to escape wildfire
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than 100 firefighters have been mobilized in Sevier County in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to fight a large wildfire.
At least 100 homes in Sevier County have been impacted including 30 different structure fires in Gatlinburg. A 16-story hotel on Regan Drive also caught on fire and the Driftwood Apartments near the Park Vista Hotel were fully engulfed. More than 12,000 people are without power.
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The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday night to secure a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for the Chimney Top Mountain fire, which caused the wildfire outbreak in Sevier County.
Officials said in an early morning news conference they will not try to gauge how large or how many new fires are burning until the sun comes up on Tuesday.
Highway 441 into downtown Gatlinburg is closed to everyone except emergency personnel. However, the highway is open for people trying to evacuate.
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At least 500 evacuees were in a Red Cross shelter at the Laconte Event Center Monday night in Pigeon Forge. Tuesday morning there were still more than 100 people taking shelter.
There are also different animal shelters that are watching evacuees’ pets while families stay in the shelters.
One person trying to evacuate was burned, but there have been no other reports of injuries.
The employees of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies have also evacuated.
The attraction’s general manager Ryan DeSear spoke with local media. He said the evacuation was caused by the smoke from nearby fires.
The aquarium has taken safety measures to make sure the animals are not harmed or suffer from smoke inhalation. Ripley’s is built on a bunker and had power at the time of the evacuation.
The Historic Gatlinburg Inn and the skylift in downtown Gatlinburg are still standing and have not burned despite rumors on social media