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Wildfires destroy houses, property in U.S.


Wildfire erupts on the side of The Spur, on Highway 441, between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg…on Monday PHOTO: JESSICA REZAK

Wildfire erupts on the side of The Spur, on Highway 441, between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg…on Monday PHOTO: JESSICA REZAK

Hundreds of structures have been destroyed by wildfires in Tennessee and more than 14,000 people have been evacuated from the Gatlinburg area, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported yesterday morning.

About 100 houses have been damaged or destroyed by flames from spreading wildfires, state emergency officials said.

Very preliminary surveys of damage by the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency indicated that the Westgate Resorts, made up of more than 100 buildings, had been destroyed. Ober Gatlinburg was reported to be gone and Black Bear Falls was believed to have lost every cabin.

Even with the rain that continues to fall, buildings remain engulfed in flames, and the agency said there is “little hope” that the rainfall will bring relief anytime soon.

Hillbilly Golf, major hotels, a good portion of Regan Drive and countless other businesses and homes were some of the buildings destroyed.

“The centre of Gatlinburg looks good for now,” said Newmansville Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Bobby Balding. “It’s the apocalypse on both sides (of downtown).”

Gatlinburg sits on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Most of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts survived the fire. Fire did destroy two buildings at the longtime crafts campus in downtown Gatlinburg.

Thirty structures were on fire in Gatlinburg, including the Park Vista Hotel, a 16-storey hotel and the Driftwood Apartment complex near the Park Vista that has “been completely inundated,” said Dean Flener, spokesman for Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, in Nashville.

Initial reports from fire officials said Pi Beta Phi, an elementary school, had been destroyed. It was not.

According to USA Today, the Space Needle and many of the properties on the main stretch are intact. Regan Drive, however, has been hard hit, according to fire crews.

Orebank Assistant Fire Chief Bradley Collins said several hotels in Gatlinburg and many houses have burned.

“It was devastating. We’ve seen some nice homes burning.”

Ryan Holt, Greene County Volunteer Fire Department coordinator, said his agency rescued three motorists who were trapped in the area in which Gatlinburg Falls, a major cabin rental company, is located. Holt said the entire area around Gatlinburg Falls was burning.
Hillbilly Golf, which is at the entrance of Gatlinburg, also was destroyed in the fire, according to firefighters.

Firefighters said the Cobbly Nob community had been heavily damaged. Evacuations were ordered but firefighters worried some residents might have been trapped.

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Ober GatlinburgTennessee
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