Gatlinburg Fire Chief Tuesday morning: “The downtown area remains largely intact.”
— Everything TN (@Everything_TN) November 29, 2016
Residents of Eastern Tennessee are waking up to the unthinkable this morning, as the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has suffered unimaginable destruction following an out of control wildfire that breached the community’s town-limits yesterday.
The fire, the result of suspected arson, started inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national park, over the weekend. Unfortunately, strong winds and historic dry conditions made it impossible for fire crews to contain the blaze and the raging inferno made its way to the community Monday evening.
At 3 a.m. Tuesday, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency provided a report to members of the media, stating that the fire had impacted 30 structures in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments reported fully-involved near the Park Vista Hotel.
Additionally, Sevier County officials estimated about 100 homes had been impacted in the county with 10 homes impacted in Gatlinburg from the fire and more that 12,500 residents were without electricity.
Further complication emergency efforts, first responders were having difficulty communicating via cell phone due to the cell phone system being over ran.
Wear Valley, Tennessee, resident Julie Carles-Witt, provided the following update via social media early Tuesday morning:
“Just got off the phone with Drew. He defended Park Vista. Some of it is burnt but he thinks it might be ok but Gatlinburg is gone. I said ‘so overall, how is Gatlinburg?’ He paused for a second and said ‘mom it’s gone’ I said ‘literally gone?’ He said yea there is a few shops left on the strip and he said he thought the aquarium was ok but it’s all burnt. Westgate (between Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge) is all gone and both sides of the spur are burnt (the road from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge) He said [the fire] surrounded them and it was like the gates of hell opened up. He said there are no words to explain what he saw. The mountains in Gatlinburg towards Pigeon Forge are still burning please keep the prayers coming. This by far is not over.”
Please note: The "entire town" of Gatlinburg is not destroyed. Both ends of town has damage, downtown Gatlinburg mostly spared.
— Bryan Wood (@bryanwx) November 29, 2016
Despite the carnage, as of 3 a.m. Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Emergency Management had reported that there have been zero fatalities.
Sharon Pinyan, leaving Gatlinburg, reports… “Evacuated Gatlinburg. A car behind us caught on fire due to the flames jumping the road.” pic.twitter.com/qislDoxpl0
— James Spann (@spann) November 29, 2016
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