Fires near the Smokies in Tennessee prompt mandatory evacuations

Courtesy: WATE/Report It/Chris Higgins
Courtesy: WATE/Report It/Chris Higgins

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WBIR) — Fires driven by wind gusts prompted the evacuations of multiple areas of Gatlinburg Monday night, fire officials said.

Some areas of Pigeon Forge were also evacuated, WAVY affiliate WBIR reports.

“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 spokeswoman Trish McGee.

Courtesy: WATE/Report It! Chris Higgins
Photo courtesy: WATE/Report It/Chris Higgins

Farther west, fires were reported above Wears Valley Road. Video from a WBIR viewer showed the hillside aflame.

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

In Gatlinburg, National Park Service and city officials stressed the fires 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.

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 area is also under mandatory evacuation.

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 Gatlinburg, including the Knoxville Fire Department. Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Ogle said she understood the Karns Volunteer Fire Department was responding as well.

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

Gatlinburg residences are encouraged to evacuate using Highway 321 to evacuate. Gatlinburg residents needing assistance with transportation can call the Gatlinburg Fire Department at 865-436-5181.

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.

Shelters are open nearby evacuated areas and some school districts are closed because of the fires.