The vast woods and beautiful fall foliage of Tennessee is revered by locals and tourists alike. They attract approximately 12 million people to Sevier County, TN every year. This year, the trees and famous local attractions like Dollywood theme park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are in the path of a wildfire that has forced both to close temporarily.
Wildfire Threatens Dollywood and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Two key attractions in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee are the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood. Both are heavy with tourism late in the year.
Unprecedented wildfires in Gatlinburg fueled by unusually dry conditions and high winds, forced the evacuations and closures to both attractions. Travel in the Gatlinburg area has been limited to emergency traffic only. Approximately 14,000 people were evacuated.
The Dollywood park did not sustain fire damage, and crews are on standby on the perimeter of the property to protect it. The park will be closed for at least two days while crews work to get the wildfires under control.
All facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were closed.
Damage Reports Still Coming In
Employees at Ripley’s Aquarium were also forced to evacuate, leaving behind 10,000 animals as the wildfires crept within 50 yards of the property.
Damage reports are still coming in so exact figures are unknown. But officials with Sevier County, the City of Gatlinburg, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park have reported widespread 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. Multiple county schools in the area were also closed.
This is a hard hit to an area that thrives on its natural beauty and tourism, and the Volunteer state will have to undergo a massive recovery to restore what once was.
Learn what a former wildfire fire fighter recommends for wildfire safety tips if you find yourself traveling to an area threatened by fire.