Dollywood Threatened By Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge Wildfires
Staff members at Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, are taking precautions to prevent damage to the tourist destination as wildfires rage in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Dollywood Director of Communications Pete Owens tells Nashville's Tennessean that 19 of Dollywood's cabins have been evacuated, as well as all occupied rooms at the park's DreamMore Resort; the affected guests were relocated to areas away from the wildfires. Owens adds that firefighters are taking preventative measures to protect Dollywood from the fires; however, a statement on the Dollywood website notes that a dozen of the Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins have been damaged or destroyed. Dollywood has suspended operations, though the DreamMore Resort is open on a limited basis for registered guests and those in need.
"I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains, and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe," Parton says in a statement. "It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared."
On Monday night (Nov. 28), USA Today reports, the Gatlinburg Fire Department declared an immediate and mandatory evacuation of the city, after wildfires spread due to strong winds; a tweet from the official Gatlinburg Twitter account calls the move "unprecedented." A mandatory evacuation order is also in place in Pigeon Forge, and emergency officials have asked residents of Sevier County to stay off their mobile devices to help communication.
"We urge the public to pray," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller says (quote via NBC News). "I know that it's hard to potentially think about losing a home or a place that you've worked your entire life to build, but we are dealing with a situation that is very dynamic."
As of 7:30AM ET on Tuesday morning (Nov. 29), a total of 30 structures were on fire in Gatlinburg, including a hotel, USA Today reports; a number of businesses and homes, as well as the Arrowmont Arts and Crafts School, have been destroyed. Fortunately, the fire has resulted in no fatalities and only minor injuries, as of 3AM ET on Tuesday morning, per the Tennessee Emergency Management Association.
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