Death toll rises to 4 in Gatlinburg wildfire - FOX Carolina 21

Death toll rises to 4 in Gatlinburg wildfire

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Smoke rises from the fire in Gatlinburg (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park) Smoke rises from the fire in Gatlinburg (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park)
Glow from the fire overnight in Gatlinburg (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park) Glow from the fire overnight in Gatlinburg (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park)
Firefighters travel on foot to fight the fires (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park) Firefighters travel on foot to fight the fires (Courtesy: Smoky Mountains National Park)
Survey of damaged areas (Courtesy: WBIR) Survey of damaged areas (Courtesy: WBIR)
GATLINBURG, TN (FOX Carolina) -

Evacuations remained in place for Gatlinburg Wednesday morning due to the Chimney Top Mountain fire and subsequent fires that destroyed buildings, homes, and claimed at least four lives.

Embers from the fire sparked multiple brush fires Monday, which quickly spread through the resort area.

An estimated 14,000 residents and visitors were evacuated from Gatlinburg, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The evacuations were still in place and all roads were closed as of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Four people were killed in the fires and at least 45 people were injured, officials said Wednesday. One firefighter also suffered minor injuries,

The fourth victim was found in a motel along Highway 321 Wednesday morning, officials said. Three other adult victims were found Tuesday in the Chalet Village area.

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said Wednesday the eight new fires broke out. Miller said the high winds in the area ignited seven brush fires and one residential structure fire. The house was unoccupied.

Officials said they were still in the process of clearing and searching the area and the National Guard was providing assistance.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is working to setup a 1-800 number for people who may be missing family members in the area.

MORE: 3 killed, hundreds of buildings destroyed in East TN wildfires

Officials said as estimated 150 structures were damaged or destroyed in Sevier County, plus another 100 in Gatlinburg. The City of Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism reported that nine houses in that city had been destroyed by the fires.

Some of the damaged landmarks in Gatlinburg included a 16-story hotel on Reagan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments. Officials said the downtown area was "largely intact" and the mayor promised the city would rebuild all lost structures.

Evacuation orders were lifted for Pigeon Forge Tuesday night.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park released this update Tuesday morning, noting that some buildings in the area had been completely destroyed.

Gatlinburg Area Fire Update

Levier County, City of Gatlinburg, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have reported widespread fire damage and continued fire activity throughout the Gatlinburg area and much of Sevier County including Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge, and Jones Cove. Gatlinburg City officials have reported numerous structures completely lost to fire including businesses in the downtown area and private homes throughout the area.

Unpredicted, extreme weather conditions on Sunday afternoon through Monday led to the exponential spread of fires both inside and outside of the National Park. Severe wind gusts of over 80 mph, unprecedented low relative humidity, and extended drought conditions caused the fire burning in the National Park to spread rapidly and unpredictably, in spite of suppression efforts on Sunday that included helicopter water drops. Wind gusts carried burning embers long distances causing new spot fires to ignite across the north-central area of the park and into Gatlinburg. In addition, high winds caused numerous trees to fall throughout the evening on Monday bringing down power lines across the area that ignited additional new fires that spread rapidly due to sustained winds of over 40 mph.

Conditions remain extremely dangerous with trees expected to continue to fall. Officials are asking that motorists stay off the roadways throughout the area. Travel in the Gatlinburg area is limited to emergency traffic only. The National Park is closed at the Gatlinburg entrance.

Officials have received tremendous support throughout the region included state resources and the deployment of the National Guard by Governor Haslam. The Red Cross established shelters in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge where over 1,300 people have gathered to seek refuge.

At this time, officials do not have information to release regarding the current size of the fire, the number of structures burned, or injuries. Additional news updates will be provided as information becomes available.

SHELTERS

Three shelters are available for evacuees.

Rocky Top Sports World
1870 Sports World Blvd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

The LeConte Center
2986 Teaster Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Pigeon Forge Community Center
170 Community Center Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

People living in and visiting the area can let family members know they are safe by taking the following steps.

ROAD CLOSURES

Highway 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed except for emergency traffic. Evacuating traffic is being allowed to use 441 to leave Gatlinburg.
Green, McMinn, Sevier County schools will be closed on Tuesday due to the wildfire.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed at the Gatlinburg entrance.

Officials are also urging people to stay off the roads in the area and only use roads for emergency travel.

BOIL WATER ADVISORY

Gatlinburg issued a boil water advisory on Wednesday, advising customers to conserve water as much as possible and to boil any water before drinking or cooking.

Officials said the water system encountered water loss due to burned buildings and firefighters are also using water to extinguish fires.

Customers may need to strain water to remove any sediment.

BUSINESSES DESTROYED OR DAMAGED

The Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg posted on its Facebook page that the mansion was destroyed by the fires, but then about five hours later a post was published saying they had gotten conflicting reports and that the mansion still stands.

The post read: 

"Update!

So we've been getting conflicting reports. The news and eyewitnesses last night are saying the mansion was destroyed. But now we have been getting reports that it still stands. We have not been able to get into town to see with our own eyes because of the evacuations. So Please stay tuned within the next few days. And we will let you all know as soon as we can into town. Thank you all for the kind words and support during this tragic situation."

On Wednesday, the attraction posted a photo taken Tuesday afternoon which purportedly showed the building still standing. 

The post read: 

Here is the most recent picture of the mansion as we know of now.... It was taken around 1pm this afternoon. We thank you all for everything and your memories, this means so much to us and are thankful to have such a major support from everyone... This has been a tragic, depressing, and angry moment that has happened to our home. Only together we will make it and survive this horrible event. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families that are effected by this moment. Thank you
Keep in mind this not 100% assurance we still have awhile to wait before we get to see it with our own eyes.

Cupid's Chapel of Love was destroyed in the fire, but all staff members are safe.

MORE: 30 buildings burn in Gatlinburg as wild fire brings mass evacuations

The Alamo Steakhouse & Saloon posted on Facebook that its Gatlinburg was destroyed by the fire. Owners said the building burned to the ground and promised to rebuild.

The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa posted on Facebook that the resort has sustained damage and they're still assessing,

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Cabins reported on their website that more than dozen cabins are damaged or destroyed but the theme park itself is not damaged. 

The Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts' executive director announced that all buildings survived with little damage, except two; Hughes Hall and Wild Wing. The extent of the damage is unknown. 

Cobbly Nob/Pittman Center area and Wears Valley each lost about 70 homes according to the Mayor of Sevier County.

Out of 10 square miles, about half have been impacted and over 100 structures damaged in Gatlinburg according to the Mayor of Gatlinburg. 

FULLY INTACT OR NO MAJOR DAMAGE

According to the Mayor of Gatlinburg, much of downtown is still intact. 

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies confirmed on its Facebook page that all animals are safe and a team of Marine Biologists and Life Support experts are now in the aquarium. 

Ober Gatliburg confirmed on its Facebook the property is in good conditions. 

Chapel in the Glen confirmed on its Facebook the fire did not reach the chapel. 

The iconic campus for Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts was not lost, but three buildings were destroyed.

AMUSEMENT / EVENT CANCELLATIONS

The city's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade scheduled for Friday has been canceled, according to the city's website.

"Due to the recent fires, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade scheduled for Friday, December 2 is canceled. Please continue to keep our first responders in your prayers," the city's post read.

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park stated on Facebook that they will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. "Our structure on the mountain and our animals in the Wildlife Encounter are safe. Please keep our rescue workers in your thoughts and prayers," the park posted.

Dollywood's resorts and cabins were evacuated overnight but the theme park said Tuesday that the fire did not damage the park. Dollywood will be closed Tuesday through Thursday. The park will reopen Friday at 2 p.m.

"After assessing the damage wrought by recent area wildfires, Dollywood is focusing its efforts for the next two days supporting the community. The Dollywood theme park will resume normal operation on Friday, December 2 at 2 p.m. Lodging is open on a limited basis."

DONATIONS

City officials said food, water and other items for firefighters battling the wildfire can be dropped off at New Hope Church of God, located at 2450 Winfield Parkway in Kodak. However, a spokesperson with the American Red Cross asked during a Wednesday morning news conference that people "pause" with the in-kind donations, because the agency was overwhelmed by the amount and still working to ensure they can organize and distribute the supplies received so far.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said the best thing people wanting to help can do is come back and visit and stay in the city once it is up and running again.

MORE: Storms take aim at large wildfires in South

MORE: Gatlinburg, TN evacuated as wildfires burn

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