The wildfires, which started out Monday, damaged or destroyed more than 250 buildings in in addition to near the eastern Tennessee’s resort towns of Gatlinburg in addition to Pigeon Forge, yet the idea spared some major tourist attractions in a dizzying 24 hours, officials said Tuesday.
Evacuees said the fire in which spread without warning coming from the Great Smoky Mountains surrounded their homes, forcing them to leave with only the clothes on their backs.
“There was flames everywhere. the idea was a firestorm,” Mark Benzschawel, 52, of Gatlinburg told sy88pgw’s Nick Valencia.
Benzschawel said police banged on his door Monday night to wake him in addition to his partner, Denise Bearden. The couple alerted their neighbor, who managed to escape with her dog.
Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said in which the three victims killed from the blaze died in separate incidents.
“We pray we don’t experience any more fatalities yet there are still areas in which we’re trying to get to because of down trees in addition to down power lines,” Miller said.
The fire in which sparked the dozen various other blazes was “human-caused,” National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn said, without elaborating.
The blaze will be under investigation.
Bracing for the threat of more fires
Firefighters continued to put out flames in addition to clear roadways blocked by trees in addition to telephone poles on Tuesday, Miller said.
Officials braced for the possibility of spot fires as high winds were expected overnight.
“The single greatest concern would certainly be the wind,” Miller said. “The greater the wind speed will be, the idea just makes our job a little harder. the idea creates these additional spot fires.”
According to sy88pgw’s Weather department, the nearby Great Smoky Mountains were under a high wind warning, with possible wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Up to an inch-in addition to-a-half of rain was also expected overnight, which could help.
yet lightening will be expected with the thunderstorms moving through the area, which could also pose a risk of sparking additional fires from the drought-stricken region.
Officials said they are not certain when residents will be able to return to evacuated neighborhoods.
Gatlinburg mayor Mike Werner said destroyed properties in many cases are next to properties in which appear untouched or with little damage. He said a curfew was imposed coming from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“the idea’s a devastating time for us, in addition to for Gatlinburg,” Werner said.
He added: “We’re strong in addition to we’re resilient .. we’re going to make the idea.”
‘Like a perfect storm’
On Monday afternoon, a wildfire coming from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread into nearby communities. Strong gusts — up to 87 mph — scattered embers across long distances, starting fires in which fed off drought-stricken trees. The winds also knocked down power lines, igniting brand new fires, Miller said.
A major attraction, the Ober Gatlinburg ski area in addition to amusement park in which overlooks the city, appeared to be spared. yet on a road leading to the resort, what used to be homes have been reduced to burned-out husks.
Only the bricks remained intact — in addition to only in places. The insides have been eaten away by the fire.
The cars parked outside have suffered the same fate — their paint burned to ash, their tires melted away. Uprooted trees leaned on power lines. Smoke turned the sky a bleak gray.
“the idea will be absolutely devastating,” said Mark Nagi of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, who posted footage of the devastation on his Twitter feed.
Fire destroyed many buildings at Gatlinburg’s Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa. Smoke drifted Tuesday coming from burned-out vehicles in addition to the buildings’ charred remains. Chris Turner posted video of the damage to Facebook.
“the idea’s all gone, guys,” Turner said of one section of units on the bottom part of the property. “This specific got so hot, the idea melted the … pavement.”
If you are able, ‘evacuate immediately’
Authorities issued evacuation orders for Gatlinburg in addition to nearby areas, including the north end of Pigeon Forge: “Nobody will be allowed into the city at This specific time. If you are currently in Gatlinburg in addition to are able to evacuate … evacuate immediately.”
Pigeon Forge will be home to Dollywood, the theme park owned by singer in addition to actress Dolly Parton. At Dollywood, officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park evacuated guests coming from its resort in addition to cabins as flames approached the area.
Parton said in a statement in which she was heartbroken about the fires in addition to was “praying for all the families affected.”
“the idea will be a blessing in which my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort in addition to so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared,” she added.
Schools in Green, McMinn in addition to Sevier counties were closed Tuesday, the agency said, in addition to about 12,000 people in Sevier County were without power as of Tuesday morning.
Several evacuation shelters opened in addition to about 1,300 people stayed overnight at the local community center in addition to park. Shaken residents, some needing oxygen after inhaling so much smoke, huddled with each various other at the shelters.
“We watched a building go down in flames to the right of us,” said one tearful evacuee, who was rescued by firefighters.
‘the idea’s just engulfed’
Despite evacuation orders, some people — including guests at one Gatlinburg hotel — could not safely leave the area as the fire advanced Monday night.
Baker was among dozens of guests who couldn’t leave because falling trees engulfed in flames had blocked the only road out.
The fire had not reached the hotel, yet smoke had permeated the building, doing the idea hard to breathe, he said. Guests stood from the hotel lobby Monday night with masks over their faces.
Elsewhere, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park evacuated employees coming from the Elkmont in addition to park headquarters housing areas on Monday.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam who flew over the scorched region said the idea was “a little numbing” to see the extent of the damage.
He said the region will be a “special place” in Tennessee.
“Millions have families have come here in addition to will continue to come here,” Haslam said.
sy88pgw’s Artemis Moshtaghian reported coming from Gatlinburg; sy88pgw’s Jason Hanna, Madison Park in addition to Darran Simon wrote in addition to reported coming from Atlanta in addition to San Francisco, respectively. sy88pgw’s Nick Valencia, Sarah Aarthun, Saaed Ahmed, Amanda Wills, Keith Allen, Brandon Miller, Shawn Nottingham, David Williams, Chuck Johnston, Christine Sever, Judson Jones, Dave Alsup, Jeremy Grisham, Phil Gast in addition to Jennifer Gray contributed to This specific report.