Wildfire near Smoky Mountains prompts mandatory evacuations
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Firefighters sought to get a handle Wednesday on a wildfire spreading near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, amid mandatory evacuations as winds whipped up ahead of a line of strong storms forecast to move in overnight.
Authorities ordered evacuations in the Hatcher Mountain area of Wears Valley and Walden’s Creek, and the resorts of Shagbark, Little Valley and Black Bear, with nearby residents also urged to leave, according to the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency.
The fire, which was not contained, had expanded to about 250 acres (more than 100 hectares) as of Wednesday afternoon, and one person was injured, Sevier County and state forestry officials said. The fire was in what the state Agriculture Department described as steep and difficult terrain.
A plume of smoke rose above the community not far from where 2016 wildfires ravaged the tourism town of Gatlinburg, killing 14 people and damaging or destroying about 2,500 buildings.
The blaze began with a brush fire Wednesday morning. It burned a cabin in a rural area and threatened others, drawing a response from multiple agencies, WVLT-TV reported, citing the Sevier County Fire Department and the Tennessee Division of Forestry. The fire destroyed a vehicle and two buildings, according to the Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
A shelter was established at the Pigeon Forge Community Center for those evacuated, authorities said.
Warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds have increased the risk of fire danger, the emergency agency said.
Severe storms that included at least two tornadoes injured several people, damaged homes and businesses and downed power lines in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas overnight before moving to the Deep South on Wednesday.