Massive wildfires burning around Gatlinburg, Tennessee


Massive wildfires fueled by strong winds and the Southeast's worst drought in nearly a decade are burning around Gatlinburg, Sevier County, Tennessee, forcing evacuations. Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) said at 08:00 UTC (02:00 local time) today there are currently 30 structures on fire in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel. A heavy layer of smoke is beginning to settle in parts of the County.

 A Level 3 State of Emergency has been issued and evacuations ordered for downtown Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and other parts of the county.

TEMA urged residents in Sevier County to stay off mobile devices unless it is for emergency calls to prevent taxing the mobile system. Emergency communication is a huge part of what TEMA does, everything is now over networks and networks can get inundated, officials said.

“We have had the state of emergency center evacuated in Nashville since the start of these wildfires many days ago. We are in full activation mode tonight trying to coordinate resources with Sevier County, to get resources, fire apparatuses into the county to help them in the response to these wildfires. We’re also working with the National Guard to get personnel in there to clear these roads,” said Dean Fleener, TEMA.

Sevier County officials currently estimate about 100 homes impacted in the county with 10 homes impacted in Gatlinburg from the fire.

As of 08:00 UTC today, approximately 30 structures have been impacted in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments reported fully-involved near the Park Vista Hotel.

State Hwy. 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency traffic. State Hwy. 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open to evacuating traffic.

Green, McMinn, Sevier County schools will be closed on Tuesday. Cocke County schools run two hours late.

There are reports of a burn injury to a male evacuee and several minor injuries due to a fire truck involved in an accident.

Sevier County reports 12 509 people are without power.

A total of 1 200 people have sheltered at the Gatlinburg Community Center and at the Rocky Top Sports Park.

A high-wind warning is in effect for Sevier County until the morning. Rain is also in the forecast for the area for the next few days.


November 29

Approximately 14 000 people were evacuated and three people lost their lives, as of late Tuesday, November 29.

About 150 structures have been destroyed.

The rain has provided some relief on Tuesday, and more is in the forecast for Wednesday, November 30.

December 2

As of late December 1, the death toll rose to 11. There are still several people missing.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has declared a state of emergency to expedite aid to victims of the wildfires and storms ravaging eastern Tennessee.

The state Department of Agriculture says its Agricultural Crime Unit and Sequatchie County authorities charged 24-year-old Dakota Ashton Tucker of Monteagle with deliberately setting a fire November 14 in Sequatchie County.

Featured image: The Smoky Mountains ablaze, Gatlinburg, Tennessee – November 2016.

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  1. We love it there. We were thinking of moving from Florida. So many people we know have relocated to TN. We were there all summer. I am sad to see this. We didn’t know have had a string of arson fires. What’s really going on? Things are odd in many places, many. How do I stay informed?

  2. I have a trip planned for dec 19TH through the 21 at island dr hotel in pigeon forge and have tickets for the moving theatre, aquarium, and a hiking trip to see the longest hanging bridge in america would it still be safe to go? or have these buildings burned, or will they be out of business?

    1. Although you probably do not want to give up on your plans to visit Sevier County in a couple weeks, I would think it would be a strange, rather sad, and somewhat unhealthy time to visit. I live a county away from where these fires happened and there have been arson fires in East Tennessee for the last five weeks. Our air quality is very poor and many days it is hard to venture out at all as the smoke burns the sinuses and it is very hard to breathe. Most locals have to stay inside every other day or so, so I can’t imagine planning to be in this area unless you have to be. And since most of these fires are caused by arson, they can pop up anywhere, at any time. I haven’t felt safe for weeks as I live in 53 acres of very dry forest.

      On another note, visiting an area just after a tragic disaster would seem to be uncomfortable for you and for most local folks who are in the midst of serious shock and overwhelming grief over the loss of many people, animals, homes, and businesses. It would be hard to remain cheery and upbeat when others have lost everything they owned, and more importantly, beloved family members and friends.

      While there may be people who want to see the aftermath of a disaster (although that may be considered voyeuristic and inappropriate by some), there is so much cleanup work to be done, and many people have not even been found as of yet, so perhaps it would be best to leave professionals and aid workers alone to do their jobs, until much of the cleanup, rescue, and assessment work is done. On the other hand, if you had a skill that would help with these efforts, I’m sure volunteers would be appreciated. That might make for the best type of “vacation” that one could have, helping others who have so much need. With over 400 structures destroyed, it will take a lot of time and help for local folks to find a sense of normalcy and inner peace again.

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