Wildfires Tear Through Eastern Tennessee, Threatening Homes and Hotels
At least 14,000 people have evacuated Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and 100 buildings have been destroyed as wildfires continue to blaze across the eastern region of the state.
State authorities reported that three local resorts, including Ober Gatlinburg amusement park and ski area, the Black Bear Falls log-cabin rental resort, and the Westgate Mountain Resort & Spa, had been destroyed, CNN reported. Representatives from Ober Gatlinburg said that their hotel was still standing, however, according to local news outlets.
Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge are both popular resort towns, situated near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Popular attractions such as Dollywood, a theme park named after and partly owned by Dolly Parton, and Ripley's Aquarium were forced to evacuate as the fires approached.
“We have fire crews on the park working with our team to protect structures,” said Pete Owens, Dollywood's director of media, ABC reported. “There is fire on the ridge near the park.”
Strong winds and the worst drought in nearly a decade spurred the wildfires in Tennessee, according to Associated Press. No deaths have been reported, and at least three people have been hospitalized for severe burns.