Governments across Tennessee respond to deadly Gatlinburg wildfire
Tennessee city, county and state employees have banded together to respond to the raging wildfires in Gatlinburg that have so far damaged hundreds of buildings and killed three.
“Everywhere you looked, there were fires everywhere, It was like driving into hell,” Sneedville, Tenn., Fire Department Lieutenant Rain Moore — who helped fight the fires in Gatlinburg — told the New York Times.
By early Tuesday morning, 14,000 people had responded to the mandatory evacuation notice issued for the eastern Tennessee city, according to the New York Times and CNN. Additionally, 11,600 people in Sevier County, Tenn., had lost electrical power, and 17 had been injured.
So far, the wildfires have destroyed over 100 structures in Gatlinburg and 150 in greater Sevier County, according to CNN. Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner lost his home and business in the blaze according to Knoxville, Tenn. TV station WATE.
Gatlinburg officials are not sure when residents will be able to return to their homes, CNN reports. A curfew has been instituted for 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Tennessee communities Andersonville, Claxton, Clinton, Marlow, Oak Ridge and Olvier Springs’ fire departments, according to Oak Ridge Today. Additionally, Anderson County EMS sent its mass casualty response vehicle and three ambulances to help with response. Firefighters from various cities in Roane County, Tenn. also assisted with fighting the flames.
"This is a fire for the history books," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said at a morning news conference, according to Chattanooga, Tenn. TV station WRCB. "The likes of this has never been seen here. But the worst is definitely over with."
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) also collaborated with several state departments to coordinate response efforts, Oak Ridge Today reports. Up to 32 Tennessee Department of Transportation personnel worked to clear away routes, while up to 52 Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers canvassed door-to-door for evacuations and other notifications.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said in a statement on Twitter that National Guardsmen had been deployed to assist those that the inferno affected. Hassle went to Gatlinburg to be briefed on the wildfires and their resultant damage. Haslam later called the wildfire the largest to occur in Tennessee in the past 100 years, Oak Ridge Today reports.
“The destruction caused by the wildfires in east Tennessee is tragic," Haslam said in a news release, per The Tennessean. "Our hearts go out to all those affected in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of our state’s most treasured natural resources."
The state is providing coordinated resources, including Nat'l Guard, to help Gatlinburg, all those affected by devastating fires in GSMNP.
— Gov. Bill Haslam (@BillHaslam) November 29, 2016
Winds topping 80 mph blew embers from a wildfire in the nearby Chimney Tops Trail into Gatlinburg on Monday night, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Within 15 minutes, the flames had swept through Gatlinburg.
"In my 25 years of federal (park) service, I've participated in many fires, but none of that could have prepared me for this," Great Smoky Mountain National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash told the News Sentinel.