Seven dead, 700 buildings lost in Tenn. fire
GATLINBURG, Tenn. – A total of seven confirmed fatalities were reported along with 700 confirmed structures (300 in Gatlinburg and 400 in other parts of Sevier County) lost to the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. The fire was first reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at approximately 5:20pm.
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, Nov. 27, 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 the Park. The wildfire was determined to be human-caused and is currently under investigation.
As of Thursday, Dec. 1, the fire was 10 percent contained and includes a total of 15,653 acres. A total of nine crews, 22 engines, seven helicopters, four dozers, and 285 total personnel were in action on Thursday.
The Southern Area Red Team assumed command of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire on Wednesday, Nov. 30. 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 prolong 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.
A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for most of Gatlinburg as of Thursday morning.