Wildfires forcing evacuations in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge

Wildfires driven by wind gusts are prompting the evacuations of multiple areas of Gatlinburg including downtown Gatlinburg, fire officials said Monday night.

GATLINBURG - 9PM UPDATE: Wildfires driven by wind gusts are prompting the evacuations of multiple areas of Gatlinburg including downtown Gatlinburg, fire officials said Monday night.

Some areas of Pigeon Forge also are being evacuated including residents and guests located in the areas between traffic light 8 and the Spur, according to spokeswoman Trish McGee.

"Three county school buses are available for emergency transport and are being dispatched as needed to transport those who need to evacuate," according to a statement from McGee.

Farther west, fires also were reported above Wears Valley Road near the Dollar General Store. A viewer sent 10News video of the hillside aflame.

In Gatlinburg, National Park Service and Gatlinburg officials stressed the fire posed a serious threat that would not abate until rains came. 

"We urge the public to pray. We urge the public to stay off the highways. The traffic that is on the roads is emergency equipment. If (the public) could just stay home and stay tuned to their local media outlet," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said at a 8:30 p.m. press conference.

In Gatlinburg, other areas under a mandatory evacuation include Mynatt Park Neighborhood, East Foothills Road, Turkey Nest Road and Davenport Road areas. The Savage Gardens areas also is under mandatory evacuation.

Police are going to the area to get people out. City officials urged everyone to get out.

Gatlinburg city officials said high winds were downing power lines, sparking multiple ground fires.

Multiple agencies were responding to the fires in Galinburg including the Knoxville Fire Department. Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Ogle said she understood the Karns Volunteer Fire Department also was responding.

Fire officials decided about 6 p.m. to impose the evacuation, according to Ogle.

To help with Pigeon Force evacuations, three county school buses were available for emergency transport and were being dispatched as needed to transport those who need to evacuate, according to a release from 

The following locations are open and ready to receive those who need shelter: LeConte Center at Pigeon ForgePigeon Forge Community CenterLiberty Baptist Church in Wears Valley Iglesia Cristiana LaDuz De Jesus.

Also open for evacuations: The First Redbank Baptist Church in Sevierville.

Sevier County Schools are closed Tuesday due to the fires, the school district said on its website.

Great Smoky Mountains Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said the fires posed a "very serious situation."

Authorities could not provide an estimate on the total acreage that was burning.

"I know that it's hard to potentially think about losing a home or a place that you've worked your entire life to build, but we are dealing with a situation that is very dynamic," Miller said. "The wind is not helping us. The rain is not here yet."

Authorities are hoping that rain expected Monday night will ultimately douse the spreading wildfires.

PREVIOUS UPDATE: City of Gatlinburg officials have declared a mandatory evacuation of several areas in the city due to the threat of a nearby fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The Mynatt Park Neighborhood, Savage Gardens, East Foothills Road, Turkey Nest Road and Davenport Road areas are included in the immediate mandatory evacuation. 

RELATED: Chimney Tops fire sends heavy smoke into Gatlinburg

A Red Cross Evacuation Shelter has been set up at the Gatlinburg Community Center at 156 Proffitt Road. Residents needing transportation to the shelter may request assistance by calling the Gatlinburg Police Department at 865-436-5181. 

Service animals are allowed at the evacuation shelter.

Gatlinburg Fire Department officials say the threat is from a spot fire in the Twin Creeks area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park combined with low humidity and windy conditions. 

Fire officials said fallen trees have sparked multiple fires in Gatlinburg from downed power lines. Fire departments from multiple agencies are assisting. 

The National Park Service notified the city around 11:45 a.m. that the Chimney Tops Trail fire created a new fire near Mynatt Park. The fire is still inside the national park, but the park service notified the city since it is near a residential area. 

Smoke and ash from the fire have created poor visibility in Gatlinburg since Monday morning. 

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Gatlinburg police officers are going door to door asking residents in the Mynatt neighborhood to voluntarily evacuate to the Red Cross Shelter, city officials said. 

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Dana Soehn, a spokesperson for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said over 100 people from various agencies are working the fire and monitoring its movements. They are expecting another 80 firefighters and engines from seven different counties to arrive Tuesday to provide additional support fighting the fire.

The origins of the fire are unknown, but the park has set up a tipline at 865-436-1580 for anyone who has information about the cause of the fires. 

Soehn urged visitors to honor the burn ban that is in place in the park. There is a complete ban on burning of any campfires or charcoal grills. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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