(WATE/WJBF) – Officials in Sevier County say the death toll has now reached 13 in the fires in Gatlinburg and the county.
Sevier County officials said at a press conference Friday 13 people had died. 85 people have been treated at LeConte Medical Center for fire-related injuries.
5 names of the deceased were also released.
- John Tegler, 71 (Canada)
- Janet Tegler, 70 (Canada)
- John Summers, 61 (Memphis)
- Janet Peso Summers (Memphis)
- Mae Vance (vacationer – died from heart attack)
Mayor Larry Waters said Wednesday three more people had been rescued – two in an elevator at the Westgate resort and one from a private home on Ski Mountain – and the number of buildings destroyed or damaged just in the county had risen to at least 400. Another 300 or so have been damaged or destroyed in Gatlinburg.
A 6 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew continues in Gatlinburg. A boil water advisory remains in effect.
Gov. Bill Haslam said this is the largest fire in 100 years in Tennessee. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is working to help determine the origin of the fire. ATF Agent Michael Knight said the agency was called in overnight to help with the investigation. He says the investigation is in its initial stages and will take several days.
Officials say they have developed a number of leads that have resulted in missing persons being found. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee. Those wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the affected areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley may contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.
“Since our hotline has been established yesterday morning, we received 100 phone calls,” said an agent from TBI in a statement. “We are following up on approximately 70 leads.”
The city has divided up areas into four zones to search for victims.
- Zone 1 (Ski Mountain Area) – 80 percent complete
- Zone 2 (Chalet Village) – 90 percent complete
- Zone 3 (Downtown area) and 4 (Eastern corridor) – Searched
Oats said the goal is to have all zones searched by Thursday night. Animal control and other officers are also checking on displaced animals. The county is asking pet owners to provide names and specific addresses of the animals to the Sevier County Humane Society Facebook page.
Investigating burned property
All roads will be open in the fire-damaged areas to property owners from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, except Beech Branch Road, Walker Trail Road and Wiley Oakley Road. People must be able to prove they are property owners, leasers or renters. This also applies to tourists who would like to retrieve belongings they left behind. Officials will work with business owners to confirm that people were staying at their lodging businesses.
If all goes well, the access will remain open through Tuesday. There will be one entry station at the East Parkway near Gatlinburg City Hall and can only be reached by Glades Road. There may be areas with active utility workers and first responders and people should be prepared for delays and finding alternate routes.
Structures may not be safe. The city is not implying such by allowing access. Homeowners may bring insurance adjusters with them. The current goal is to reopen downtown Parkway, River Road and Airport Road on Wednesday to the general public.
Mayor Waters says all the fires are extinguished in the county and city, but some hot spots remain. The fire has burned more than 17,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and remains only 10 percent contained there.
Gatlinburg residences are encouraged to evacuate using Highway 321 to evacuate. Gatlinburg residents needing assistance with transportation can call the Gatlinburg Fire Department at 865-436-5181.
- LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge
- Pigeon Forge Community Center
- Liberty Baptist Church in Wears Valley
- Iglesia Cristiana La Luz De Jesus
- The First Red Bank Baptist Church in Sevierville
- River Plantation RV Resort and Anchor Down RV Resort
- Trinity Baptist Church, 1995 Hartford Rd, Cosby
- Gatlinburg Community Center
- Rocky Top Sports World
- Kodak event center
- Camp Montvale, 4901 Montvale Road (will accept pets and horses)
- Livestock: Douglas Lakeview Stables, 1650 Providence Rd in Sevierville. Contact Kristi at 864-671-8439. Barker Lounge (open for dogs)
CW-4 Dave Smith with 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion at McGhee-Tyson airbase says that they are flying missions today for the wildfires.
Smith said they have three Blackhawks that have flown to the Gatlinburg airport. They will operate out of that airport. Two helicopters are configured to drop water. The other is configured for rescue operations with a hoist.
Another helicopter , a Lakota UH-72, is flying on from Nashville. It is equipped with communications gear and FLIR (Forward looking infrared) for search operations.
The city of Pigeon Forge says nine residential structures were destroyed. The fire department was not able to access the buildings due to downed power lines in the area. Crews are working with electricians to fix the problem. Around 125 people are displaced and are staying at shelters in the city. Hundred firefighters from 15 stations in East Tennessee are helping.
TEMA gave a statement on Ober Gatlinburg:
“A video posted on Ober Gatlinburg appears to show the facility is OK this morning. We received on-the-ground reports last night and early this morning indicating the facility was destroyed. We are relieved to know this important Tennessee destination is still there.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander gave a statement:
“This is heartbreaking news for the people of Sevier County and all who love the Smokies. My staff and I are working with Gov. Haslam and local officials to make certain that there is maximum federal support to help fight the fires and deal with the consequences of the fires.”
TEMA estimates more than 14,000 residents and visitors evacuated. Sevier County says 11,595 people are without power. A temporary flight restricted has been placed over the area to help first responders.
The agency originally said Ober Gatlinburg is completely destroyed. However, Ober Gatlinburg says on social media that its property is ok. TEMA believes Westgate Resorts is mostly gone, with more than 100 buildings destoryed. Black Bear Falls has lost almost every cabin.
Three people were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville from the UT Hospital after receiving severe burns. One person is currently being treated for burns at UT Hospital.
The Gatlinburg Post Office was evacuated as a precaution. Customers can receive mail at the Sevierville Post Office at 711 Dolly Parton Parkway from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced that the state is resources to help with the fire including the National Guard’s services. “The state is proving a coordinated response, including the National Guard, to help all those affected by the devastating wildfires burning in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and throughout the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. TEMA encourages residents in Sevier County to stay off mobile devices, unless it is an emergency, to prevent outage.”
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed all of its facilities. The park’s headquarters is currently without power and phone services.
Classes at Walter State in Sevierville have been canceled.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park says there is widespread fire damage in Gatlinburg and other parts of Sevier County. The city of Gatlinburg says many structures were destroyed including businesses downtown and private homes. The fire has affected Gatlinburg, and areas in Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge and Jones Cove.
Weather conditions on Sunday and Monday led the fire to spread inside and outside the park even with suppression efforts. The area received winds over 80 mph. Winds created spot fires throughout the area and some power lines fell down due to trees. Sevier County reports 12,509 people are without power.
Liberty Baptist church has been closed as a shelter and ordered to evacuate, according to Pastor Dan Suttles. Dan Cutshall is the pastor at New Hope Church in Kodak and he says their event center is now open as an evacuation shelter.
The latest information from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency:
TEMA is asking residents in Sevier County to stay off mobile devices unless it is for emergency calls to prevent taxing the mobile system.
Strong winds Monday afternoon caused a wildland fire on Chimney Top Mountain, in the Smoky Mountain National Park to spread rapidly onto private property in the City of Gatlinburg and in the City of Pigeon Forge.
Currently 30 structures are on fire in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments reported fully-involved near the Park Vista Hotel.
Evacuations are underway for Downtown Gatlinburg, and also Mynatt Park, Park Vista and Ski Mounty in Gatlinburg, and for the south part of Pigeon Forge close to Sevierville. The wildfire is also at the edge of the Dollywood property.
Sevier County and Gatlinburg officials have established a command center at Gatlinburg City Hall.
Local officials have ordered mandatory evacuations for Mynatt Park, Park Vista, and Ski Mountain. Evacuations have also been ordered for the north end of Pigeon Forge.
State Hwy. 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency traffic. State Hwy. 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open to evacuating traffic.
There are reports of downed power lines and trees, and reports of road closures, including Highway 441 being closed. 9-1-1 communications centers in the area report being inundated with calls about the situation.
Sevier County and Cocke County schools will be closed on Tuesday.
There are no reports of fatalities. There is a report of a report a burn injury to a male evacuee. There is also a report of minor injuries due to a fire truck involved in an accident.
Pete Owens with Dollywood said 19 cabins that were occupied within Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins were evacuated early Monday evening. He said they just evacuated Dollywood DreamMore Resort.
Owens said fire crews are in the park and are taking preventative measures to ensure all structures are intact at Dollywood. No structures are on fire and no persons have been injured.
The National Guard is being deployed to Gatlinburg.
Gatlinburg fire officials have declared an immediate mandatory evacuation of the Mynatt Park, Savage Gardens, East Foothills Road, Turkey Nest Road, Davenport and Ski Mountain areas.Evacuation centers were set up at the Gatlinburg Community Center and Rocky Top Sports World.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported fire activity at the Park Headquarters area and a spot fire between Elkmont and Newfound Gap Road off of the Sugarland Mountain Trail approximately 1 mile south of the Husky Gap Trail intersection. The park has closed the Gatlinburg Bypass and Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area due to fire activity and downed trees. The park has evacuated employees from the Elkmont and Park Headquarters housing areas. The southbound lanes of the Spur from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg are also closed due to fire activity.
“It’s very dangerous weather conditions,” said Dana Soehn with the National Park Service. “We’ve had trees coming down, limbs coming down and the fire is continuing to grow.”
Evacuation centers were set up at the Gatlinburg Community Center and Rocky Top Sports World. Residences needing assistance with transportation can call the Gatlinburg Fire Department at 865-436-5181.
“Fire officials report that fallen trees have sparked multiple fires from fallen power lines,” said Cindy Ogle, city manager for the city of Gatlinburg. “Fire agencies from multiple agencies are responding to the area fires and I can’t express enough the city’s gratitude for the assistant with the National Park.”
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported additional fire activity including the Park Headquarters area and a spot fire between Elkmont and Newfound Gap Road off of the Sugarland Mountain Trail approximately 1 mile south of the Husky Gap Trail intersection.
The park has closed the Gatlinburg Bypass and Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area due to fire activity and downed trees. The park has evacuated employees from the Elkmont and Park Headquarters housing areas.
Gatlinburg Fire Department is going door-to-door asking residents to voluntarily evacuate to a Red Cross evacuation shelter set up at the Gatlinburg Community Center located at 156 Proffitt Road. Residents needing transportation may call the Gatlinburg Police Department at 865-436-5181.
The National Park Service reports more fire growth in the park over the next 8 hours with the potential for spot fires to form outside of the fire area. Gatlinburg Fire Department will continue to monitor the situation and the Tennessee Division of Forestry has staged equipment in the Mynatt Park community.