December 2, 2016 – Property owners, renters and vacationers are allowed for the first time today to go see for themselves the damage from Monday’s firestorm that swept through Gatlinburg and Sevier County, TN. The reality of this past week’s tragic events is just beginning to settle in for a lot of folks who love the Great Smoky Mountains enough to make their lives here. We offer this update from various local reports and press conferences held in Gatlinburg today.
Great Smoky Mountains Wildfire Reality Check for December 2, 2016
- Nearly 1,000 structures have been identified destroyed or severely damaged in Sevier County, TN in the wildfires that burned 17,859 total acres in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Sevier County. 10,850 acres have burned in the national park.
- 240 people remain in American Red Cross shelters. The number of victims has risen to thirteen; six have been identified: a couple visiting from Canada, a couple visiting from Memphis, and two Gatlinburg residents. The number of people treated at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville has risen to 80.
- Gatlinburg Parkway and River Road openings are delayed until Wednesday, December 7, 2016.
- Search, rescue and recovery efforts are ongoing.
- There are currently no burning wildfires in Sevier County. The wildfires in the national park are at 0% containment, meaning that no bulldozer line has been created around all burning areas. The area is still in a severe drought with an 11″ rain deficit and extreme caution is urged as wildfire hot spots are still active in GSMNP.
- Current Air Quality Index is Moderate (orange) meaning that air quality is acceptable for the general population but may be unhealthy for sensitive groups: people with heart or lung disease; older adults and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
- An Interactive Map has been created for property owners to check on the status of their homes and businesses. A link to the map can also be found on Facebook at Chinmey Tops 2 Fire. About 980 entries have been made and this is only 60% of the total structures that have been identified.
- What can you do to help? Come and visit us in the Great Smoky Mountains! Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are ready to greet you, and several areas of the national park are again open. Our economy is dependent on your tourism dollars to help us rebuild and maintain. We’ll keep you posted on various organizations who’ve set-up relief funds, however in the meantime, get out your calendar and plan your next trip to our neck of the woods! We need you!
As stated earlier, a lot of folks here are still trying to wrap their heads around this week’s events. This amazing video created by brothers Joe and Bruce McCamish with McCamish Media offers some perspective and shares some insight on the magnitude of this wildfire event.
“After midnight on Monday night, I was with Bruce, my brother, in the Bluff Mountain Fire Tower in Pigeon Forge. We were watching a devastating event. We were photographing the fire in Pigeon Forge when we saw the rain coming in from the West. We saw the fire was about to consume Dollywood so we raced over while praying that the rain would get there first. At exactly 3:30 am the rain came. We stood in that glorious downpour watching the fires slowly die, except for the engulfed cabins. Before the rains, Bruce captured a picture of Dolly’s DreamMore Resort with the devastating wildfires bearing down on it, and that one picture, more than any other, captured peoples’ attention when it came to the national media. Every major media outlet contacted us for permission to use this image the next day. Dolly is so well-loved that all the networks and their affiliates used this image as their lead in on this fire tragedy. It was a great photo Bruce captured that caught the attention of the nation.
As many of you do, Bruce and I both have a deep emotional attachment to these mountains and we saw a powerful intervention – at 3:30 that morning. If the rain hadn’t arrived when it did, it’s likely all of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge would have gone up in flames.
I was inspired to make this video to help explain how this unfolded. I’ve used half a dozen of Bruce’s pictures and the rest I picked up to help visually tell the story. There’s certainly a lot of sadness involved but few know how incredibly precarious the situation was. I choose the song ‘Amazing Grace’ because with 20,000+ people in harm’s way that night – there were many miracles.” – Joe McCamish via Facebook
Please continue to keep our people and mountains close at heart. #smokymountainstrong