At least three people are dead following wildfires that destroyed hundreds of buildings in and around the popular tourist destination of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Officials said Tuesday more than 250 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in a roughly a 24-hour period. The wildfires are believed to have begun in the Great Smoky Mountains and have scorched nearly 15,000 acres across eastern Tennessee. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered throughout Gatlinburg, as well as in the nearby tourist town of Pigeon Forge. A video of a Gatlinburg resident’s evacuation is going viral, even shown on CBS This Morning.
A spokesman with the National Park Service says the fire that led to the dozen or so subsequent wildfires is believed to be “man-made”, but did not offer to elaborate. An investigation is ongoing.
Officials at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, located in Gatlinburg, report the attraction has been spared by the fire and the almost 10,000 animals there have escaped injury. Dolly Parton released a statement saying her Dollywood theme park, too, had been spared.
Forecasters say the drought-stricken area should receive rain throughout the day on Wednesday.