4 now confirmed dead in Tennessee wildfires

Thistle Dew Nicely, Gatlinburg (Tracy Stephen Oaks)
Thistle Dew Nicely, Gatlinburg (Tracy Stephen Oaks)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) – UPDATE: The Latest on wildfires in Tennessee that killed four people and destroyed more than 150 buildings (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

A Tennessee mayor is confirming another fatality in the wildfires that swept through the Great Smoky Mountains, raising the death toll to four.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also said Wednesday that nearly four dozen people had been injured in the fires.

The wildfires destroyed more than 150 buildings. Heavy rain fell early Wednesday, which is helping put out some of the wildfires, but officials say more than 200 firefighters are still out battling flames and hotspots.

10 a.m.

Rain is moving through a Tennessee tourism region ravaged by wildfires, but officials say there are still active fires in the area.

Tod Hyslop, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Morristown, Tennessee, says the Gatlinburg area got about ¾ of an inch to 1 inch of rain overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.

He says rain will pick up midday Wednesday through the afternoon and taper off about 4 or 5 p.m. The system is moving slowly, which increases the chances of more rain.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener said any rain will help, but the fires are still an “ongoing situation.”

2 a.m.

A Tennessee tourist mecca is emerging from the smoke, charred and vacant.

During wildfires Monday night, many buildings in Gatlinburg were burned to their foundation. Hotel fire alarms eerily echoed through empty streets lined with burned out cars Tuesday evening.

Three people were killed. The fire destroyed at least 150 buildings, including iconic homes and a resort. Other buildings and attractions remained largely intact, including the Dollywood amusement park in nearby Pigeon Forge.

Wildfires have been burning for several weeks across the drought-stricken South. But Monday marked the first time homes and businesses were destroyed on a large scale.

Gatlinburg, a city that opens up to 11 million visitors annually, is facing a new reality. But Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his home, says his town will pull together and recover.

ORIGINAL: The fires in Gatlinburg have been raging since Monday night, destroying several local business and landmarks, as the fire continues to grow

“The loss of life is very saddening, Gatlinburg is strong,” said Bill Haslem, Governor of Tennessee. “I know we are going to be ok.”

The identities of the three victims have not been revealed at this time, but have promised to do so as soon as they can.

According to WATE, Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner, whose house and business were destroyed in the fire, says a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew has been put in place in Gatlinburg and people are urged to boil water before drinking it. (http://wate.com/2016/11/23/4-smokies-trails-again-closed-due-to-another-wildfire/)

Donations to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund can be made at any SmartBank or mailed to PO Box 1910, Pigeon Forge, TN, 37868.

Werner hopes people can come to check on their houses in the next 24 hours, but could not make any guarantees.

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