GATLINBURG – 7 a.m. Update (Nov. 30, 2016) Gatlinburg city officials are asking customers to conserve their use of water as much as possible.
The firefighting activities combined with the water loss from burned structure has placed a significant demand on water resources in Gatlinburg.
City leaders are also advising for customers to boil water prior to drinking it or using it for food preparation. A water boil is in place due to the heavy demand on the city’s water system.
Authorities advise customers to strain water through a clean cloth to remove any sediment that may be present, and to heat the water to a boil for up to a minute to insure disinfection.
On Wednesday, the Knoxville Police Department deployed a search and rescue team to first responders in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
6 a.m. UPDATE (Nov. 30, 2016): Emergency crews worked through their second consecutive night into Wednesday morning to stop deadly fires burning in Sevier County.
A strong storm system is moving through East Tennessee, and while it promises to bring plenty of rain beneficial in keeping fires from spreading — it also brings more gusting winds that could potentially make firefighting efforts more difficult. Some areas could see anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain, and minor flooding could also be a concern if the rains pour in the same area for too long.
No new information has been given on the status of the fire or the number of injuries since Tuesday afternoon. Three people in different parts of Gatlinburg where confirmed to have died between Monday and Tuesday, and more than 15,000 acres have burned in the last two nights. Officials are calling this the worst fire for Tennessee in 100 years.
The next briefing on the status of the fire and potential casualties is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The status of a few buildings in the Gatlinburg area that were either reported intact or were claimed by the fire can be found here.
Both Sevier and Cocke County schools will be closed again tomorrow.
The Red Cross is accepting donations, and you can easily donate money to relief efforts on your mobile phone by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999.
WBIR will continue its on-air coverage of the fire starting tomorrow at 4:30 a.m. You can watch on Channel 10 or live on our Facebook page.
6 PM UPDATE: The National Park Service said Tuesday night the fires in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Gatlinburg area have burned an estimated 15,000 acres so far.
Starting Wednesday, ongoing fires will be managed by a team of federal and state team members from around the nation. The team is used in times of natural disasters, according to the Park Service.
Also, the LeConte Lodge up on Mt. LeConte escaped fire damage. Historic cabins in the Elkmont Campground area saw roof damage because of high winds that struck late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Some roof repairs will be needed, according to the Park Service.
4:15PM UPDATE: The bodies of three people have been found so far in the aftermath of this week’s wildfires in Sevier County, officials said Tuesday.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters called the discovery “devastating news.” The names of the dead have not been released while authorities contact family members, he said.
“We extend our prayers to the families,” Waters said at a 4 p.m. press conference.
Gov. Bill Haslam said the blaze, which spread rapidly Monday afternoon, was the state’s largest in the last 100 years. About 100 pieces of fire equipment on hand as well as some 400 personnel working to put out lingering fires, he said.
“This is a special place in the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Millions of families have come here and will continue to come here.”
Many people have “heavy hearts” about the fire, the governor said, but he also pledged that Gatlinburg and areas affected by the fire will rebound. He added he had just spoken with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence about the disaster.
A curfew will be in place from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday in Gatlinburg, officials said.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City praised emergency workers who worked late Monday and early Tuesday to clear people out from homes amid the fires.
“I’m convinced the death toll would be much higher if not for their quick decisions,” Roe said.
Gatlinburg Fire Department Chief Greg Miller said firefighters were encountering multiple downed trees and power poles that impeded their progress. Roads can’t be opened until blockages are cleared, he said.
Miller also noted more high winds could move in late Tuesday and early Wednesday, further complicating firefighting efforts. The projected storms are expected to bring more rain.
Firefighters still are battling hotspots in the town, he said.
Mayor Mike Werner of Gatlinburg said both he and City Manager Cindy Ogle lost homes in the blaze.
“It’s a little numbing to be honest with you to see the extent of the damage,” Haslam said.
Fires broke out in so many different places, the governor said, that is was a “mini-miracle” that firefighters were able to keep the damage to what it was.
Waters said about 70 structures suffered damage in the Wears Valley area and 70 structures suffered damage in the Cobbly Nob area near Pittman Center.
Haslam said the disaster is affecting thousands.
“I have so many friends who I have heard from this morning who have said, ‘I’ve lost my house,’ ” the governor told 10News.
3:58 UPDATE: Knox County has sent a mobile unit from its forensic center to Sevier County, Michael Grider, communication director for Knox County, has confirmed.
Grider would not say whether anyone has been killed from the fires but said the only time as unit is sent is when a local jurisdiction requests one.
A mobile unit that often serves as mobile morgue since it can store bodies in a controlled environment.
Also, Pigeon Forge has halted evacuations and most businesses there are now open.
3:45 PM UPDATE: The town of Gatlinburg says that because of this week’s wildfires it is canceling the annual “Fantasy of Lights” Christmas parade that was set for Friday, Dec. 2.
Also, more than 120 Tennessee Army National Guard soldiers are set to arrive in East Tennessee later Tuesday to help Sevier County Emergency Management personnel with transporting first responders. They’ll also be removing “light debris” and checking on residents affected by the fires.
The soldiers are based in towns that range from Maryville to Newport to Knoxville.
“The Tennessee National Guard is uniquely qualified to not only fight our nation’s wars, but also to respond to emergency operations here at home,” Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee Adjutant General, states in a news release. “We are working closely with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, numerous other state agencies and the local responders in Sevier and surrounding counties to assist in whatever is required to save lives and property.”
2:15 P.M. UPDATE: From Gov. Haslam: “We will do all we can in the coming days and weeks to help these communities rebuild and recover. The state has worked with local officials to provide a coordinated, multi-agency response to help evacuate residents and visitors and contain the fires, and we are grateful to the emergency personnel who have worked tirelessly to help in these efforts.”
1:30 PM UPDATE: Gov. Bill Haslam, the director of the state’s emergency management agency and others are expected to review fire sites in Sevier County at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Earlier Tuesday, Haslam tweeted that the state was providing “coordinated resources including National Guard to help Gatlinburg, all those affected by devastating fires in (Great Smoky Mountains National Park).”
Meanwhile Gatlinburg emergency dispatchers are asking that people refrain from calling 911 unless it’s a dire emergency. They are swamped with calls and are struggling to keep up with demand.
12:30 PM UPDATE: Gatlinburg officials say they are not aware so far of fatalities from overnight fires, but injury reports continue to come in.
LeConte Medical Center has taken a total of 16 patients related to the fire, five or six of whom were transferred to University of Tennessee Medical Center, according to marketing manager Amanda Paletz. One person was released.
The medical center continues to receive patients, according to Paletz. LeConte Medical Center is one of the nearest treatment centers in Sevier County
According to UTMC spokesman Jim Ragonese, the hospital in Knoxville has received at least 10 patients with injuries that range from critical to minor.
Three people who suffered severe burns in the fires have been transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. They remain in critical condition, according to WSMV-TV.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains closed today as authorities assess the damage.
Among the many locations evacuated late Monday was the Tremont Institute, a non-profit park partner, on the Townsend side of the park.
As a precaution, according to marketing manager Heather Davis, more than 100 students, teachers and staff from the campus were moved. They were taken by bus to Maryville church that’s been designated as a Red Cross shelter.
Visiting students and teachers then were picked up by buses form their school systems and taken to their homes, according to Davis.
Tremont’s staff is staying away from the site for the moment, according to Davis.
“Although there was no immediate danger of fire at Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed due to downed limbs and more severe destruction on the Gatlinburg side of the park. Programming will resume when it’s safe.
11 AM UPDATE: More than 400 firefighters so far have spent the past two days battling wildfires that have devastated Sevier County and led to the evacuation of 14,000 residents, destroyed hundreds of structures, burned down 70 homes and taken out large swaths of the area.
However, so far no one has died and officials have received no missing person reports. Twelve people were treated to nearby medical facilities for non-life-threatening injuries. Another 2,000 are at Red Cross shelters.
During an 11 a.m. press conference Tuesday, Sevier County and Gatlinburg leaders said first responders are still fighting what they called “a fire for the history books” and will do so for quite some time.
They are urging anyone in the area to not use WiFi devices, so that they don’t “bog down” the same system that emergency personnel also are using.
“I can tell you we won’t stop until we reach each and every property,” said Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller. “We are grateful that the downtown area has remained largely intact.”
Miller said on Monday some 200 firefighters throughout the region pitched in to battle the blazes. Another 212 relieved those crews on Tuesday morning.
As it stands, fires have claimed more than 150 structures in the unincorporated part of the county and more than 200 in the cities. At least 70 homes have been destroyed.
“I have never seen an event like this and it’s going to take some time to recover,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. “Yet we remain overwhelmed by the incredible response of this community, region and state, which we feel is indicative of how we will move forward and rebuild these cities.”
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said fires have affected roughly half of his city’s 10 square miles and damaged more than 100 structure.
“But Gatlinburg is a very strong, very resilient community,” Werner said. “We will rebuild and we will remain the premier resort community that we are.”
Gatlinburg’s fire chief said the community so far has received support from people throughout the country. But, he said, they are urging residents to not return until the “emergency phase” is over.
He doesn’t know at this point when that will be.