Wildfires devastate eastern Tennessee communities
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (KUSI) — At least three people were killed and more than 14 ,000 have been forced to leave their homes due to more than a dozen wildfires burning in eastern Tennessee.
The fires burning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park moved into local communities Monday afternoon and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the first 24 hours.
"Personally I think I’ve lost my house. But you know, things can be rebuilt,” Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said. “Our downtown’s intact, and that’s really great for our economy"
Dry conditions fueled by the worst drought in the southeastern region in nearly a decade are part of the problem, officials said.
The damage caused by the flames was still being evaluated and officials believed more fires could spark overnight. As of Tuesday night, there was no word on when residents would be allowed back into their homes, but responders continued to defend people’s homes and lives.
"We just watched a building go down in flames to the right of us and then we pulled in front of another building that wasn’t on fire yet. But the firemen came and got us and I don’t know who it was, but I thank him so much."