Photo courtesy: Pamela Wolfenbarger Rankin
An out of control forest fire that began in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has grown to over 500 acres in approximate size and locals are saying the smoke is becoming so thick that it is now beginning to hide the sun in downtown Gatlinburg.
Fueled by historic November droughts and +50 mph wind gusts, the fire is posing a threat to private property and has helped to bring the tourism community of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to a standstill.
In a post released just before 3:30 p.m. Monday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park stated, “Park fire crew numbers responding to the Chimney 2 Fire have continued to increase over the course of the weekend. Currently, park firefighters have been joined by firefighters from Utah and additional support resources have been ordered, including an incident management team along with 4 hand crews (total of 80 people) and air support. The additional crews are expected to begin to arrive Monday and early Tuesday… National Park Service fire crews and local fire departments are working on suppression efforts to ensure public safety and to protect facilities throughout the area. They are responding to potential threats to private properties along park boundaries as needed.”
Emergency officials say fire conditions continue to change rapidly as the day continues and that the region around Gatlinburg continues to experience very dry conditions with relative humidity less than 50%. Due to erratic winds, the fires are becoming very unpredictable.
This evening’s forecast calls for wind speeds to increase and the size of the fire is expected to grow as a result.
Residents and visitors in the area are using the word “apocalyptic” to describe the thickness of the smoke and the severity of the ash falling.
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