Gatlinburg, Tennessee Fires: 14,000 People Evacuated, 30 Structure Fires; Hundreds of Buildings Destroyed in Resorts


Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spokesperson Dana Soehn explains that the fire from the park has extended into the city limits of Gatlinburg. (Nov. 29)

Tennessee officials say thousands of residents and visitors in the Gatlinburg area have been evacuated and hundreds of structures have been damaged and destroyed by spreading wildfires.

Embers from burning trees and 70 MPH winds have started new fires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and within the Gatlinburg city limits. Gatlinburg Fire Department Fire Chief Greg Miller asked the public to cooperate with evacuation orders as firefighters are dealing with the worst possible conditions imaginable.

Michael Luciano in Chalet Village, Tennessee recorded video of his drive through a remarkable Tennessee wildfire.

The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency reported the Westgate Resorts, made up of more than 100 buildings, was destroyed.

Black Bear Falls is reported to have lost every cabin.

An Appalachian-themed miniature golf course company, Hillbilly Golf at 340 Parkway in Gatlinburg, was also destroyed. The business, with multiple 18-hole miniature golf courses, is just north of Gatlinburg.

Black Bear Falls Log Home Community is about 2 miles northeast of the city limits of Gatlinburg.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is home to nearly 11,000 animals, including some endangered species. The general manager says staff were forced to evacuate, but would rather sacrifice their own lives to save the animals.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies early Monday reported their building was secure, and still had power. The aquarium with aquatic habitats from around the world is about 1700 feet south of Hillbilly Golf, which is also considered the north entrance to Gatlinburg.

However, employees at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies were forced to evacuate later Monday as the wildfire spread south into Gatlinburg.

Aquarium staff were forced to leave behind over 10,000 animals, according to Tennessee Ripley Attractions General Manager Ryan DeSear. DeSear reported he wasn’t sure if flames reached Ripley’s Aquarium, but a “raging fire” was about 50 yards away from the aquarium when workers were evacuated on Monday night.

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Many people were worried Tuesday about Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The air breathing animals are in a vacuum sealed cage getting fresh air pumped to them. The facility was still on main power, and a backup generator is available. The facility can run on its own for about 24 hours without human intervention.

Ripley Aquariums website went down about 1:00 p.m. ET. Their post below went blank when their website went down.

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