Firefighters in eastern Tennessee battling a stubborn fire in the Smoky Mountains resort town of Pigeon Forge were able to extinguish about half of the blaze, which damaged at least 35 cabins and required the assistance of Black Hawk helicopters.
The Pigeon Forge fire broke out about 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Black Bear Ridge resort and Trappers Bridge, NBC affiliate WBIR-TV 10 said. At its peak, the fire was spread across about 300 acres.
Fire officials said they believed a cabin fire at the resort snowballed, creating the massive blaze. It was unclear what sparked the fire.
"These houses are put close together up there. The first portion of this started out as a house fire ... it led to several other next to it catching on fire," said Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson. "Propane tanks have been exploding. It's been a real dangerous."
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Fire crews worked into Monday in an effort to contain the blaze. They were helped by Black Hawk helicopters from the Tennessee Army National Guard, which airlifted water from nearby Douglas Lake to pour on the flames.
"We thank God we're alive and everyone is safe and our possessions can be replaced," said a woman who was vacationing at Pigeon Forge with her family. "And again we had a great week here and great people down here. Hopefully we'll be back."
The Sevier County Fire Department confirmed that at least 35 cabins were destroyed by the fire.
Watson said high humidity and temperatures made it difficult to fight the blaze when it erupted Sunday afternoon.
"You gotta understand, it jumped across a road, several roads, and now it's racing up a hill," he said. "Luckily, the humidity, the temperatures dropped. We're still not under control, but if it was earlier in the day, we'd still be in worse shape."
No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire, which prompted evacuations of the area, officials said.
"Everybody that I know of has not been injured," Watson said. "This is by the luck of God and prayer ... "
If the fire spreads, officials told WATE-TV 6 that more cabins could be destroyed. The Knoxville, Tenn., broadcaster said 25 fire departments were battling the fire.
Despite progress, Watson said it was premature to say the fire is under control. He said fire crews expect to work “for the next couple of days” to extinguish the blaze.
"We're a long way from home. We're going to be going into multiple operations for the next couple of days," he said. "We're not even able to say this fire's under control. We are not under control."
Watson urged vacationers and residents near Pigeon Forge to call 911 if they see the fire encroaching on their property and to evacuate.
"What I've been telling people, 'If you see the fire get close to your home call 911,' " he said. "If you live in those areas right there, you need to be packing up some stuff and be ready to go, so if somebody knocks on your door, you're ready to get out quickly."