Sevier County officials Wednesday morning confirmed a fourth fatality from the devastating firestorm that erupted Monday evening as well as about four dozen injuries. One firefighter suffered minor injuries overnight Tuesday but is expected to be okay.
As we reported, Tuesday, three people with severe burns were transferred from UT Medical Center to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight Monday, while a fourth person with burns to their face continues to be treated at UTMC.
Sevier County first responders, firefighters, emergency medical services, emergency management, crews from around the region, and local officials have been intensely involved in the wildfire fighting effort in the County since Monday night, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
Firefighting has been the sole focus on-the-ground in Sevier County and local officials have not had any chance to set up processes for receiving donations or engaging volunteers. Search and rescue efforts are also underway as officials check to make sure that everyone evacuated and made it out safely.
A new problem created by overnight rainfall, which officials say will likely not extinguish the flames, is what were described as “small” mudslides.
Local officials in Pigeon Forge have lifted the mandatory evacuation order. Gatlinburg still remains under a mandatory evacuation order.
Pigeon Forge officials estimate 500 people were evacuated on Monday night. Approximately 125 people remain displaced and in local shelters in Pigeon Forge.
State agencies and local officials evacuated likely thousands residents and visitors from Sevier County last night due to devastating wildfires in-and-around the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It is very likely 14,000+ residents and visitors evacuated from Gatlinburg alone.
The Chimney Top Fire, which began in the Great Smoky Mountains, spread very rapidly Monday evening as high winds pushed flames onto private property.
A temporary flight restriction is in place to prevent aircraft from complicating the response.
Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines. State Hwy. 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency traffic. State Hwy. 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open to evacuating traffic.
Hundreds of firefighters from dozens of agencies across the region have responded to assist local crews in their firefighting efforts and that includes equipment and personnel from the Clinton, Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs city fire departments and volunteer firefighters from the Andersonville, Claxton and Marlow Fire Departments. Anderson County EMS sent its mass casualty response vehicle to the Gatlinburg area late Monday and sent three more ambulances on Tuesday morning. In addition, EMS Director Nathan Sweet has served in a command post for emergency medical response.
Anderson County Emergency Management Steve Payne has also spent time assisting Sevier County crews where needed.
- Cash donations can be made through the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/donate, or by calling call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a donation.
- New Hope Church of God at 2450 Winfield Dunn Parkway in Sevierville is collecting donations also. Contact number is 865-932-4673, staffed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern.
- Gatlinburg officials are asking volunteers not to self-deploy to Sevier County to assist. Local and state officials are currently working on a process to manage volunteers and will provide more information when it is available.
- Gatlinburg is blocked off to the public and local officials are not providing access into the city because it is still a dangerous situation. Local officials will announce when they are ready to allow residents back into Gatlinburg.
The fires have burned hundreds of structures and over 15,000 acres since exploding due to savage winds late Monday into Tuesday. Gatlinburg officials have not had the chance to do a complete and through assessment of damage in Sevier County.s officials say it is unknown at this time the exact number of structures damaged or destroyed in Sevier County by the wildfire. There have been numerous conflicting accounts of what has and has not been destroyed, but we can tell you that many of the most iconic and beloved places in the popular tourist destination escaped serious damage.
- That includes Ripley’s Aquarium, which reported that while fire came very close to the rear of the building, they avoided damage and the approximately 11,000 animals housed there are fine.
- Ober Gatlinburg amazingly escaped largely unscathed.
- Earlier TEMA reports that Black Bear Falls had been destroyed have been scaled back as managers there say they had very little damage.
- The century-old Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts lost two buildings but reported little other damage.
- Dollywood had several cabins damaged or destroyed but say that the DreamMore resort was not damaged and that the park itself suffered only wind damage and no fire damage.
- No structures within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park were lost.
- The Park Vista Hotel is reported to be intact as is Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, which did suffer some wind and smoke damage.
While there were those glimpses of good news amid the devastation, approximately 70 homes were destroyed in both the Cobbly Knob and Wears Valley areas, several buildings at Tree Tops resort have been destroyed although the exact number is not known.
The Pittman Center Community Volunteer Fire Department said it will also be taking messages from callers about specific properties on it’s non-emergency line at (865)-436-9684, and will eventually provide home and business owners in the Gatlinburg area with the status of their individual properties as it becomes available.
There are three Red Cross shelters open in Sevier County, as follows:
- LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge
- Pigeon Forge Community Center
- Rocky Top Sports World
On Tuesday afternoon, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said the Gatlinburg wildfire is the largest in Tennessee in the last 100 years. Four hundred personnel from many different departments have responded, Haslam said.
At peak, an estimated 1,300 people occupied six Red Cross or independently-operated shelters. The latest estimate is 1,100 occupants in the three shelters above.