Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TEMA Evening Update on Gatlinburg Area Wildfires

The following is an update from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency as of this evening:

Local officials in Pigeon Forge have lifted the mandatory evacuation order. Gatlinburg still remains under a mandatory evacuation order.

Pigeon Forge officials estimate 500 people were evacuated on Monday night. Approximately 125 people remain displaced and in local shelters in Pigeon Forge.

State agencies and local officials evacuated likely thousands residents and visitors from Sevier County last night due to devastating wildfires in-and-around the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It is very likely 14,000+ residents and visitors evacuated from Gatlinburg alone.

The Chimney Top Fire, which began in the Great Smoky Mountains, spread very rapidly yesterday evening as high winds pushed flames onto private property.

A temporary flight restriction is in place to prevent aircraft from complicating the response.

Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines. State Hwy. 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency traffic. State Hwy. 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open to evacuating traffic.

Gatlinburg is blocked off to the public and local officials are not providing access into the city because it is still a dangerous situation. Local officials will announce when they are ready to allow residents back into Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg officials also have not had a chance to do a complete and through assessment of damage in Sevier County. So it is unknown at this time of an exact number of structures damaged or destroyed in Sevier County by the wildfire.

Sevier County officials report 14 injuries and three fatalities. There is no other information available at this time.

Three persons with severe burns were transferred form University of Tennessee’s Knoxville (UTK) hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight. A fourth with burns to their face continues to be evaluated at UTK. Currently, there are no reports of fatalities.

Sevier County reports 10,693 people without power.

There are three Red Cross shelters open in Sevier County, as follows:

• LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge
• Pigeon Forge Community Center
• Rocky Top Sports World

At peak, an estimated 1,300 people occupied six Red Cross or independently-operated shelters. The latest estimate is 1,100 occupants in the three shelters above.

TEMA opened the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Nashville last night coordinating with Emergency Services Coordinators and representatives with the Tennessee departments of Commerce and Insurance (State Fire Marshal), General Services, Health, Human Services and Transportation, and American Red Cross, Army National Guard, Fire Mutual Aid, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

Tennessee Department of Transportation (32 personnel) crews and trucks have been working continuously overnight to help clear routes of ingress and egress, fire fighters and apparatus from scores of jurisdictions responded with mutual aid.

The Tennessee National Guard is activating 111 soldiers to assist with movement of first responders, light debris removal and well ness checks. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has 15 personnel also assisting with the searches and wellness checks.

The Tennessee Department of Health is coordinating hospitals and medical services with local partners.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency this evening to secure a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for the Chimney Top Mountain fire, which caused the wildfire outbreak in Sevier County.

A line of strong to marginally severe storms is expected in East Tennessee tonight and into early Wednesday morning. Damaging straight-line winds up to 60 mph are the primary threat. Heavy downpours and lightning will also accompany these storms.

Other Info:

* Total acreage burned is now estimated at 15,000 acres.

* Pigeon Forge has halted evacuations and most businesses are now open.

* Gatlinburg has canceled the annual "Fantasy of Lights" Christmas parade that was set for Friday.

* WBIR is reporting that both the LeConte Lodge and Elkmont are intact. Here's a list of the status of several businesses and buildings in the area.

* During the press conference this afternoon, the Gatlinburg mayor announced that a "Gatlinburg Relief Fund" has been set-up. Knox News has posted information on their website on several ways you can help the victims of the fire.


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