What we know about the fire (UPDATED)

Hi all. We are keeping a close watch as news continues to come out of Gatlinburg about what is happening and what officials are discovering in the aftermath of this week’s terrible fire. We will continue to post new updates as we can, and as we learn things that we know you are wondering about.

From Thursday’s afternoon news conference: City officials have just announced they will allow property owners and renters into Gatlinburg tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The entry point will be on the East Parkway from Glades Rd.

All roads will be accessible EXCEPT Walker Trail, Wiley Oakley, and Beech Branch.

All of us at Century 21 MVP are so devastated to see our community ravaged this week by a raging fire that quickly swept across 500 acres of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, into Gatlinburg, and down toward Pigeon Forge.

As many of you have heard by now, a fire that started on Chimney Tops was carried by wind to nearby areas on Monday and quickly spread across the National Park. By the end of the day, it had spread so rapidly that it reached Gatlinburg and spread across to Pigeon Forge. The entire city of Gatlinburg was evacuated, as were homes around Wears Valley.

There are many stories already of answered prayers and miraculous intervention that have prevented loss of life and provided for safety of so many individuals. Currently 75 people have needed medical attention and we have 10 confirmed deaths. That number has been climbing as they were able to assess burned areas that were previously impossible to reach.   

It is a time like this that we appreciate the preciousness of human beings and realize that our belongings are not the treasures of our life. The real treasures are found in the lives of our friends and families. The outpouring of sacrifice and volunteer spirit is very overwhelming here as firefighters, police officers, restaurants, churches, all step in to save lives, and property.

Thankfully, the rain we had been praying so long for arrived late Monday evening, but not soon enough to avoid the evacuation of approximately 14,000 people from Gatlinburg. 100 structures in Cobbly Nob burned and at least 300 buildings in Gatlinburg were destroyed by the fire. We also learned Tuesday morning that 100 buildings at West Gate are gone, as well as cabins in Gatlinburg Falls and many cabins and homes on the ridges surrounding Gatlinburg are destroyed.  In all, it appears that it is possible that an additional 150 structures were destroyed by fire out in the county.  Most of these fires were started by heavy winds blowing down transformers that ignited brush fires that quickly took out homes and cabins.  There were also embers that floated through the area up to one mile from where they originated. The National Guard was called in to provide aid and evacuation centers were set up for displaced residents. Volunteer firefighters from multiple fire departments are still out stabilizing the area, clearing power lines.  Many have lost power as the strong winds – reaching gusts of almost 90 miles per hour at times have sent down trees that then toppled the power lines.

City officials told local news outlets that half – about five miles of the city of Gatlinburg, which covers a 10 mile area – was affected by the fire, but not the downtown area.

Please keep our communities, our emergency personnel, and all of those directly affected by these fires in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

I will continue to update my blog site as we learn more about the extent of the damage. Ripley’s Aquarium staff have posted on their Facebook page that the building is intact and the animals are safe. Helicopters also dumped water on the fires to help put them out.  The eagles and animals at Dollywood have been evacuated as well and are being cared for.

WATE has been providing continuous coverage of what’s going on in Sevier County. You can learn more about the fire and how it has affected our communities at wate.com.

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