Fire destroys more than 60 cabins
From Staff and Wire Reports
Five Blount County firefighting agencies sent crews to help combat a wildfire burning outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sevier County that had destroyed more than 60 large rental cabins as of Monday evening.
Heavy rain on Monday helped firefighters contain the 145-acre fire, which was first reported around 5 p.m. Sunday.
“We had about three downpours that allowed them to get the fire back under control,” said Dean Flener, a spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
He said there had been two minor injuries but no deaths. Most firefighters were being pulled back though a small crew was to remain on duty during the night to make sure the blaze didn’t start growing again, he said.
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.
Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said that the last of his crew left the site at about 3 a.m. Monday. He said at its height, the fire was definitely a major one.
“Of course, from the high winds and the tremendous fire, sparks were falling in the woods,” he said. “Every time it hit in the woods, it created another fire. It was just very, very large.”Townsend Fire Chief Don Stallions said the fire was at its height around midnight Sunday.
“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, according to Ben Bryson, a fire resources coordinator with the Tennessee Division of Forestry
Officials have not said what caused the fire.
John Helt was cleaning a cabin Sunday afternoon in Black Bear Ridge Resort when someone alerted him to the spreading fire, he told The Knoxville News Sentinel.
“I went running down there, and I noticed the fire started on the porch where there was a hot tub. I found out (the cabin) was empty.”
Helt said he ran through the area knocking on cabin doors to alert people to the fire, running past cabins in flames.
“I don’t ever want to see nothing like that ever again,” Helt said. “The flames were so hot I nearly passed out from the heat.”
Two Tennessee Air National Guard helicopters from McGhee Tyson Airport were sent to scoop up water from Douglas Lake and drop it on the fire.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state of emergency Monday morning to make resources available, said Dean Flener, a TEMA spokesman.
A survey team was checking Monday to determine specifically how many cabins burned. Pickens said many of the structures were rental cabins.
Sevier County Fire Department confirmed that the fire damaged cabins near Black Bear Ridge Resort and Trappers Ridge.
At the height of the fire, about 100 firefighters from about 30 fire departments were battling the blaze.
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.