A large forest fire has broken out in the area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. My understanding is that all of Gatlinburg has been evacuated and several structures in the downtown area are currently on fire.
Emergency services recently posted that the fire has made its way to the edge of the Dollywood property: https://twitter.com/FOXNashville/status/803455623300022272/photo/1
I hope that all people heed the evacuation warnings and that damage is minimal, not just to the park but to the homes and businesses of the thousands who live in the area.
I have a friend who lives right in the middle of this and she said the fires were 40 feet from their house but it was not destroyed. Her daughter's school was burned down. She did say it was raining yesterday.
When I got to Tennessee last week there were warnings everywhere about fires. Don't start one for any reason and don't think about flipping a cigarette. Hotel desk clerks issue the same warning.
I thought the real occurrences and danger was more of a Georgia/ southern Tennessee thing so I didn't give it much thought. That is until I was driving home. About 20/30 miles north of Knoxville I noticed a little smoke to the west of I75. Dummass me thought it might be a house or barn fire until a huge ball of red, orange, and brown smoke appeared very close to the freeway. Then I saw the tall trees in that valley were all ablaze. I sped along praying the thick smoke didn't suddenly shift to cover the road- that would've been quite blinding and very dangerous. Fortunately it stayed down below and traveled it's way north for quite a few miles as I drove along.
It was very scary there for a sec, and it was also weird to think that it should even be happening. Here in damp Ohio we haven't had a drought like that in many years and I tend to think of wildfires as something they deal with in California.
In the meantime I thought of our Dollywood with its forested surroundings and wondered, besides cancelling train rides, what they might do to prevent severe loss. Looks like there's not much, and they have two prized wooden coasters that sit right at the edge of the property.
I can't imagine having to evacuate all of Gatlinburg, and what that might be like. That's a lot of displaced people.
Well, let's hope the park fares well and this little rainy spell is a godsend to the entire south.
Dollywood PR Director Pete Owens said this morning that guests were evacuated last night as a precaution, but the fire has not come within 100 ft of Dollywood property. Even that seems more than close enough.