Blount, Alcoa, Townsend, Friendsville, Seymour, Maryville firefighters join effort to contain Sevier blaze
From Staff and Wire Reports
Five Blount County fire-fighting agencies have sent crews to help combat a
wildfire burning in a resort area outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee that has destroyed more than 30 large rental cabins.
The 145-acre fire was first reported around 5 p.m. Sunday in Sevier County, said Ben Bryson, a fire resources coordinator with the Tennessee Division of Forestry. Smoke was reported to be visible from 25 miles away. Bryson said early Monday that the fire was contained and not expected to spread.
Crews from the Townsend Fire Department, Blount County Fire Protection District, Friendsville Volunteer Fire Department, the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, and the Alcoa and Maryville Fire Departments responded to the fire.
Townsend Fire Chief Don Stallions said that around 12
a.m. Monday the fire had been at its height.
“It was a very large fire. Probably the largest fire I’ve seen and want to ever see again,” he said. “At least 15 of the structures were fully involved. ... It resembled a war zone.”
Some of the cabins were occupied and about 150 to 200 people were evacuated, but no one was reported injured, Bryson said.
After dawn Monday, two Tennessee Air National Guard helicopters took off from nearby McGhee Tyson Airport. A state Forestry Division spokesman said the helicopters would be used to scoop up water from Douglas Lake and drop it on the fire.
“We did have it jump a fire line overnight, but it’s contained this morning,” said Capt. Benny Pickens of the Sevierville Fire Department on Monday.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state emergency Monday morning to make resources available, said Dean Flener, a TEMA spokesman. The declaration did not mean the situation was escalating, Flener said.
National Weather Service forecasters predict a 90 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms Monday and Monday night in the mountain region.
Pickens said the wind often associated with thunderstorms could be a problem for firefighting efforts.
“That’s going to be harmful, but if mother nature drops some rain on it, that will be very much appreciated,” Pickens said.
A survey team was checking Monday to determine specifically how many cabins burned. Pickens said many of the structures were rental cabins.
The American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter at the Pigeon Forge Community Center for people evacuating from the wildfire. An Emergency Relief Vehicle (ERV) staffed by volunteers has been deployed to the area to assist with emergency needs.
The area is home to country star Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, which Bryson said was not being threatened by the fire. Dollywood was the site of a separate brush fire Saturday night but park officials said that fire would not affect the season opening this weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.