Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have closed Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Elkmont Road, and several trails due to the Chimney 2 Fire. The fire has grown to approximately 500 acres in size overnight due to extreme, sustained winds over 20 mph. National Park Service fire crews are focusing on suppression efforts to ensure public safety and protect park facilities at locations such as Chimneys Picnic Area.
Backcountry areas are unsafe for travel and the following trails and backcountry campsites are currently closed until further notice. Closed Backcountry Trails include Chimney Tops, Road Prong, Huskey Gap, Sugarland Mountain, Rough Creek, Little River, Cucumber Gap, Jakes Creek, Miry Ridge, Goshen Prong, Old Sugarlands, Bullhead, Rainbow Falls, Alum Cave, Brushy Mountain, Trillium Gap, Baskins Creek, Porters Creek, and Grapeyard Ridge trails. Closed Backcountry Campsites include 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, Mt. Le Conte shelter, and Mt. Collins shelter.
The cause of the fire near Chimney Tops appears to be human caused and is under investigation. If anyone has information regarding the origin of this fire, or other fires in the park, please call the park’s Tip Line at 865-436-1580.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported additional fire activity including the Park Headquarters area and a spot fire between Elkmont and Newfound Gap Road off of the Sugarland Mountain Trail approximately 1 mile south of the Husky Gap Trail intersection. The park has closed the Gatlinburg Bypass and Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area due to fire activity and downed trees. The park has evacuated employees from the Elkmont and Park Headquarters housing areas.
Due to continued erratic winds, the fires are very unpredictable and more fire growth is expected. Wind conditions continue to worsen with 40 mph average winds being recorded and 74 mph gusts.
WBIR is now reporting that Gatlinburg fire officials have declared a mandatory evacuation for some neighborhoods in Gatlinburg.
Fortunately rain is expected tonight - likely to arrive around 11:00 or so. Hopefully it's not too late before any major damage is done.
Update 2: WATE is reporting that downtown Gatlinburg is being evacuated.