Gatlinburg And Smokies Area Fire Update: 10 Fatalities and 700 Structures Lost

As reported by Incident Information System (InciWeb)

Incident Summary: The Chimney Tops 2 Fire was reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at approximately 5:20 p.m. The wildfire began burning in a remote location (Chimney Tops) of the park in steep terrain with vertical cliffs and narrow rocky ridges making access to the wildfire area difficult for firefighting efforts. On Monday, November 27th, continuous exceptional drought conditions and extreme winds caused the wildfire to grow rapidly, causing numerous new wildfire starts from embers carried miles away and downed powerlines in and adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The wildfire was determined to be human-caused and is currently under investigation.

To date, there are 7 confirmed fatalities and 700 confirmed structures lost (300 in Gatlinburg, 400 in other parts of Sevier County).

The Southern Area Red Team assumed command of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire today, Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 at 8:00 a.m. The Red Team, the Type 3 Grey Incident Management Team from Colorado, and other firefighters and equipment are on site.

Chimney Tops 2 Fire is currently burning in brush, hardwood slash, and leaf litter. Fire crews are working to assess fire damage and coordinate with local resources to provide structure protection.

From the Fire Behavior Analyst, “The area around the Chimney 2 Fire received rainfall today ranging from 1.2 to 1.7″ as of 3:30pm. The same area has been experiencing drought that has persisted over the past four months. Knoxville has received only 2.24” of rain over past 100 days, 13.48 is normal for same period. The rainfall received today will only last for 1 to 2 days due to prolonged drought. Fire activity will increase until significant rainfall is received over several days. Indices used to predict fire danger were at or approaching all-time highs before the rainfall. These indices will start to move back towards the same level as before the fire over next couple days if no rainfall is received.” This means the rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there.

Size: 15,653 acres Containment: 10% Start Date: November 23

Incident Resources: 9 crews, 22 engines, 7 helicopters, 4 dozers, 285 total personnel

Weather: Temperatures are expected to decrease as the week progresses, with afternoon highs reaching the 50s and 60s. Relative humidity is predicted to increase; however gusty winds may still contribute to active fire behavior.

Road and Trail Closure Status: Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park and trails are closed from the Gatlinburg entrance along Highway 441 to Smokemont, near Cherokee, North Carolina. Cades Cove and Oconoluftee Visitor Centers of Great Smoky Mountains National Park have re-opened today.

• A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for most of the City of Gatlinburg.

 

Death toll rises to 10 in Gatlinburg wildfires

Update Thursday, December 1

The death toll stands at 10 in the historic wildfire that tore through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, TN earlier this week, with no identities of the dead confirmed by officials so far and the search still on for others.

Gatlinburg Police Chief Randy Brackins fought back tears at a Thursday news conference as he described the crawling pace of the process. “It’s one of the most difficult things you can imagine,” he said. “I know you’re frustrated. If it were my family members, I’d be frustrated.”

Firefighters and emergency crews continue to work their way through fire-ravaged remote areas of Gatlinburg and surrounding Sevier County amid blocked roads, downed power lines, fallen trees and mudslides. Two of the four zones searched stood at 80 and 90 percent complete Thursday morning, with the other two expected to be complete by nightfall, Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said.

About 200 firefighters, including various crews from agencies across the state, remain on the ground, with about 20 percent of the force still fighting flames and the rest focused on the search, he said. National Guardsmen and Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers fanned out to help conduct health and welfare checks.

Complete update…

 

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