Country singer Dolly Parton said Tuesday she felt gutted after a historic wildfire blazed in Gatlinburg, a tourist community in Tennessee. The fire also threatened Dollywood, the star’s amusement park in nearby Pigeon Forge.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe,” the 70-year-old said in a statement to People Magazine Tuesday. “It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
People were evacuated from Dollywood’s resort, DreamMore, Monday and Dollywood closed Tuesday, the park wrote on its website. Operations were canceled for Wednesday, too.
“We continue to assist fire fighters and rescue personnel in any way we can and will provide details of any further developments as and when they are available,” the park added.
More than 14,000 people were evacuated this week from Gatlinburg. Nearly 100 homes were damaged or destroyed by flames, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday. There were no fatalities reported, but three people were treated for burns at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Nearly 12,000 people were without power.
Amid drought conditions and wildfire threats, Tennessee has been in a Level III State of Emergency since Nov. 10.
Parton stood next to Smokey Bear to warn about the danger of wildfires days before the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg was set ablaze. “We had a beautiful fall this year in the Smoky Mountains, but this extended drought has resulted in high wildfire danger,” she said in the 30-second video released Sunday. “As dry as it is, please help firefighters avoid wildfires.”
The fire, which began Sunday, was intensified by “severe wind gusts of over 80 mph, unprecedented low relative humidity, and extended drought conditions caused the fire burning in the National Park to spread rapidly and unpredictably,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said in a press release Tuesday.
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