UPDATE: A Tennessee mayor says three people have died in the wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses near the Great Smoky Mountains.
14,000 people have been evacuated and hundreds of buildings are destroyed. Four people have minor burns but are expected to be okay. Westgate Resorts and Black Bear Falls are destroyed, according to emergency management officials.
"An unbelievable situation”, that’s what emergency workers are calling a massive 500-acre wildfire blaze in Tennessee.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, several homes and businesses are engulfed in flames,
and hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate.
More than 100 firefighters from 16 states are battling the blaze, and more are expected to arrive Tuesday to help. Wind gusts reached up to 80 miles per hour Tuesday morning, which is feeding the flames.
The fire started on Chimney Top Mountain, one of the Smokies' most popular hiking destinations.
It then quickly spread to the resort cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Tuesday morning firefighters battled 14 fires at homes, businesses- including a wedding chapel and inside the national park.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are huge tourist attractions—and one big attraction, Dollywood, also had to be partially evacuated.
More than 10,500 sea creatures are trapped inside Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. The aquarium staff was forced to evacuate and leave the fish, penguins, sharks and other animals behind. Our sister station, WIBR, tells us the building is still standing, but there's a ton of concern about power going out. The animals can only last around 24 hours without human assistance.
The general manager explained he had to force his workers to leave because they didn't want to leave the animals without help.
Nobody has been seriously injured in the massive blaze. Tuesday morning, several schools and daycares are forced to stay closed because of thick smoke in the air.
More than 1,200 people are in shelters Tuesday morning, as dozens of buildings burn to the ground, including a 16-story hotel.
(© 2017 WTSP)