Gatlinburg area fires burn 17,000 acres - FOX Carolina 21

Gatlinburg area fires burn 17,000 acres

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Fire rages near Gatlinburg on 11/29/2016 (Source: CNN/ TN Highway Patrol) Fire rages near Gatlinburg on 11/29/2016 (Source: CNN/ TN Highway Patrol)
Fire rages near Gatlinburg on 11/29/2016 (Source: CNN/ TN Highway Patrol) Fire rages near Gatlinburg on 11/29/2016 (Source: CNN/ TN Highway Patrol)

Firefighters are gaining control of the wildfires burning in Gatlinburg but say the deadly wildfires continue to rage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Officials said the wildfire human-caused wildfire started burning in the remote Chimney Tops area of the park. The fire started in steep terrain with vertical cliffs and narrow rocky ridges that made access difficult for firefighters. On Monday, officials said the exceptional drought conditions and extreme winds caused the wildfire to grow rapidly. Embers blowing in the wind sparked several new fires, some of which burned resort areas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Seven people died as a result of the fires and officials said 74 had been treated or hospitalized for injuries sustained in the fires and evacuations. 

As of Thursday morning, the fires had resulted in seven deaths and destroyed 700 structures. 300 structures were destroyed in Gatlinburg and 400 in other parts of Sevier County. 

County officials said they were working to reopen many evacuated areas in Sevier County by the end of the weekend. Wiley, Oakley and North Chalet Village, Beech Branch, and Walker Trail sustained major damage and would likely not reopen until next week.

As of Thursday morning, firefighters said the fires were still burning in brush, hardwood slash, and leaf litter despite the heavy rainfall the area saw on Wednesday. The fires in the city of Gatlinburg had been extinguished by Thursday but the fire chief said two rekindles had occurred on East Parkway. Officials said they were still searching areas of the city for hazards and damage. The search area had been separated into zones and officials were searching one zone at a time.

The fires have scorched 17,108 acres and are 10 percent contained, per latest estimates. 6,661 acres burned outside of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

A mandatory evacuation was still in effect for most of the City of Gatlinburg as of Thursday morning. 

Officials said anyone wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley can call 1-800-TBI-FIND. Callers should be able to provide names, phone numbers, vehicle identification, and last known whereabouts. People are asked not use the phone number to ask about the conditions of personal properties in the area.

Officials said they are following up on reports that as many of 70 people were missing due to the fires, based on phone tips called in Thursday.

MORE: 7 dead, hundreds of buildings damaged in East TN wildfires

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