More than 500 evacuate Smokies to escape wildfire

This photo from Janet Huskey Kelley shows a view of wildfires burning in east Tennessee on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Officials are hopeful a large storm system that is expected to hit the area Tuesday will help extinguish the fires. (Courtesy: Janet Huskey Kelley)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says 1,200 people have taken shelter at the Gatlinburg Community Center and at the Rocky Top Sports Park as crews continue to fight a wildfire outbreak in Sevier County.

More than 100 firefighters have been mobilized in Sevier County in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to fight a large wildfire.

At least 100 homes in Sevier County have been impacted including 30 different structure fires in Gatlinburg. A 16-story hotel on Regan Drive also caught on fire and the Driftwood Apartments near the Park Vista Hotel were fully engulfed. More than 12,000 people are without power.

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

Officials said in a morning news conference they will not try to gauge how large or how many new fires are burning until the sun comes up on Tuesday.

State Highway 441 into downtown Gatlinburg is closed to everyone except emergency personnel. However, the highway is open for people trying to evacuate.

A man trying to evacuate was burned, but there have been no other reports of injuries except for a report of minor injuries due to a fire truck involved in an accident.

Sevier County residents can indicate their status with the American Red Cross at the organization’s Safe and Well website. Anyone can check the website to see if their loved ones have checked in.

There are also different animal shelters that are watching evacuees’ pets while families stay in the shelters.

The employees of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies have also evacuated. The attraction’s general manager Ryan DeSear spoke to News 2 sister station WATE. He said the evacuation was caused by the smoke from nearby fires.

The aquarium has taken safety measures to make sure the animals are not harmed or suffer from smoke inhalation. Ripley’s is built on a bunker and had power at the time of the evacuation.

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