Flames continued to rip through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Wednesday as wildfires engulfed the popular resort area in Sevier County. Three people were dead and 14 have been injured since the fire began at around 6 p.m. Monday night. At least 14,000 people were evacuated.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed all its facilities Tuesday as the wildfires blazed in multiple areas of the park. “Unpredicted, extreme weather conditions on Sunday afternoon through Monday led to the exponential spread of fires both inside and outside of the National Park,” park officials said Tuesday in a press release. “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, in spite of suppression efforts on Sunday that included helicopter water drops.”
The park lost all power and phone services due to the fire. Wind gusts carried embers and caused new fires in other areas of the park and across Sevier County. Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge and Jones Cove in the county have borne the brunt of the flames. Officials in Gatlinburg reported multiple structures, including businesses and private homes, destroyed in the fires. At least 75 homes had been destroyed in the Cobbly Nob area of Gatlinburg Tuesday morning, according to Knoxville’s WBIR-TV.
The fire began Monday night when embers from flames in Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park blew into Gatlinburg due to high winds. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents in downtown Gatlinburg. The Tennessee National Guard has been called in to help local agencies clear debris and check on residents who may be in danger. Residents have been asked to conserve water while firefighters attempt to put out the flames.
The photos and videos below show the latest images from the fires devastating Gatlinburg.