Gatlinburg, Tennessee is burning as wildfires spread from the Smokey Mountain National Park into this American icon and tourist mecca. The downtown strip has been evacuated, as have parts of the National Park, parts of Dollywood and areas between Gatlinburg and Pigeon forge. Dozens of buildings are on fire as well as hundreds of acres of what was once pristine forest.
The same drought which has left streams dry and water reservoirs dangerously low here in Alabama created conditions in the Smokeys perfect for such a blaze and high winds over the past few days blew the fire from an area known as the Chimney Tops into the downtown strip. As of this morning, desperately needed rain had still not reached the area.
While Alabama has had hundreds of wildfires recently, nothing has approached the magnitude of what federal, state and local fire crews are now battling. And sadly, the Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting the cause of this disaster appears to be man.
The fire near Chimney Tops appears to be human-caused and is under investigation, park service personnel said. If anyone has information regarding the origin of this fire, or other fires in the park, please call the park’s tip line at 865-436-1580.
As an avid outdoorsman, it saddens me when we lose forest land because people ignore burn bans and the warnings of officials. It angers me to see careless smokers toss cigarette butts from car windows. These fires grow and spread quickly, consuming everything in their wake. While buildings can be rebuilt, forests like the ones being consumed in Tennessee take decades to recover and lost lives can never be replaced. I hope that those responsible are found a brought to justice, but it will be small solace for the damaged they have caused.