Wildfires have forced people out of their homes in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and neighboring communities. An emergency announcement was sent out asking anyone who was in the town to evacuate if at all possible, and to “follow any instructions from emergency officials.”
Officials in Tennessee said the wildfires have set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort:
CNN reported that Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said crews were battling gusting winds of up to 70mph Monday night. “If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,” Miller told reporters.
“The wind is not helping, and the rain is not here yet,” Miller said in a news conference, as reported by Knoxville News Sentinel. “These are the worst possible conditions imaginable.”
One video captures a harrowing race against the fire by a driver leaving the town:
Micheal Luciano, who posted the video to Facebook, talked about his narrow escape in an interview you can watch below:
The wildfires come during the “Southeast’s worst drought in nearly a decade,” according to ABC 7.
Gatlinburg is a popular tourist gateway to the Smoky Mountains National Park, which is now closed.
Many are wondering if Dollywood, which is located in neighboring Pigeon Forge, has also been affected. The fires are approaching, but as of early Tuesday they had not hit the resort yet, ABC reported. However, cabins were evacuated and firefighters have worked around the clock to protect the structures.
Officials said Wednesday afternoon that the death toll is up to seven people, according to Fox. Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said the names of the dead won’t be released until family members are notified, and called the discovery “devastating news.”
Only a few people have been injured, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. “Three persons with severe burns were transferred form University of Tennessee’s Knoxville (UTK) hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight,” the agency stated. “A fourth with burns to their face continues to be evaluated at UTK. Currently, there are no reports of fatalities.”
Approximately 14,000 people have been evacuated, and 1,200 are staying in shelters, WREG reported.
“Donations for the firefighters that are risking their (lives) to save our mountains, people, buildings, animals,” wrote Morgan Estepp, who started the fund. “They are in need of supplies water, Gatorade, energy bars, candy, anything that can help them. These donations will be going directly to fire and emergency personnel for them to get supplies. Anything you can give will help!”
Watch additional footage of the wildfires below:
Wildfires were still burning Tuesday morning despite overnight rain: