Above: A November 29 infrared image of an area within the Chimney Tops 2 Fire in Seivier County, Tennessee. The white areas represent heat, areas that either ARE burning or they previously burned and retained some of the heat. For example, a concrete slab, ashes, and bricks would stay hot for hours after most of the fire burned out or was extinguished. The larger white rectangular objects are most likely burned structures.
On Wednesday afternoon officials confirmed that 700 structures burned in the Chimney Tops 2 Fire in Tennessee. Of that total, 300 were in Gatlinburg and 400 were in other parts of Sevier County.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported Wednesday that the death count in the fire has risen to seven and the number of injuries has increased to 45.
A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for most of the City of Gatlinburg.
Fire suppression resources assigned to the fire include 9 hand crews, 22 engines, 7 helicopters, 4 dozers — for a total of 285 personnel.
As predicted, another round of rain assisted firefighters on Wednesday, dropping between 1.28 and 1.76 inches at four weather stations in the Gatlinburg area during the 24 hours ending at 11:50 p.m. EST.
As far as we know this is the first publicly available map of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The incident management team reports it has burned 15,653 acres.
We are not aware of an official estimate of the number of structures destroyed in the fire since Tuesday morning’s report from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) of approximately 100 homes in Sevier County Tennessee having been either damaged or destroyed.
On Wednesday a Type 1 Incident Management Team run by Mike Dueitt assumed command of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Teams like this are made up of federal and state interagency team members from across the country who collaboratively manage wildland fires and other natural disasters.
The evacuation of Pigeon Forge has been lifted but is still in effect for Gatlinburg.
Firefighters will be aided on Wednesday by rain. The NWS predicts a 73 to 100 percent chance of precipitation into the evening with accumulations of about a third of an inch.
Those are words spoken by a resident trying to escape from the fire in the Chalet Village area near Gatlinburg, Tennessee as he drove down a road with fire on both sides.
The scenes shown in the video above were recorded by people evacuating after a wildfire had already ignited both sides of the road they were hoping to use as an escape route. Trees across the road, felled by the 80 mph winds or the fire, or both, blocked the road at various points. The voice in the video said they received no warning about the fire. It was uploaded to YouTube on November 29, 2016. Warning: the video has some four-letter words.
The second video includes scenes of burning structures, apparently shot by Bradley County Fire Rescue.
The next video shows some of the destruction in the wake of the wildfire that burned through the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area on Monday, November 28 and 29.
Above: The amount of rain expected during the 6 hour period ending at 1 p.m. ET November 30.
Wildfires that have been burning for weeks in the Southeast within 200 miles of where the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina come together have been plaguing residents for weeks. Smoke created by the blazes at times has been covering large portions of the South.
A drought lasting many months, and at least some cases of arson, are what led to the necessity for about 4,000 firefighters to be deployed to put out the dozens of large fires burning at the same time.
But that is about to change.
Beginning Monday night, November 28, rain in this area will slow the spread of the fires for many days at least. Some fires, but probably not all, may be put out by the time the rain ends Wednesday night. Gatlinburg, where two fires in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Monday are causing evacuations, should receive more than 2 inches between Monday night and Wednesday night.
These three maps, that are just for six-hour periods, indicate the significant precipitation expected for the next two days.
Sevier County officials reported that there have been three fatalities related to the fires in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area. Sevier County includes Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At least 14 people have been injured.
Three individuals with severe burns were transferred from the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville (UTK) Hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville Monday night. A fourth person with burns to their face continues to be evaluated at UTK.
Pigeon Forge officials estimate 500 people were evacuated on Monday night. Approximately 125 people remain displaced and in local shelters in Pigeon Forge. About 14,000 residents and visitors evacuated from Gatlinburg.
The National Park service estimates that a total of 15,000 acres have burned in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in the areas in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. On Wednesday the NPS will transfer command of the fires within the park to a Type 1 Incident Management Team run by Mike Dueitt. Teams like this are made up of federal and state interagency team members from across the country who collaboratively manage wildland fires and other natural disasters.
Eventually we hope to obtain a map, much better than the one above, of the fires in the Gatlinburg area. Check back later. (UPDATE: we posted a much better map on November 30.)
We do not yet have complete information about how many fires are burning, where they are, the causes, and where all of the fire(s) started that eventually burned into the communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
The NPS reported Tuesday morning that 80 mph winds gusts, low humidities, and drought conditions…
…caused the fire burning in the National Park to spread rapidly and unpredictably, in spite of suppression efforts on Sunday that included helicopter water drops. Wind gusts carried burning embers long distances causing new spot fires to ignite across the north-central area of the park and into Gatlinburg. In addition, high winds caused numerous trees to fall throughout the evening on Monday bringing down power lines across the area that ignited additional new fires that spread rapidly due to sustained winds of over 40 mph.
Presumably the fire within the park was the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, which started November 23 and was reported to be 10 acres Sunday evening, November 27. Apparently the NPS was not able to completely suppress the fire during that four-day period.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, in their Tuesday update, wrote:
The Chimney Top Fire, which began in the Great Smoky Mountains, spread very rapidly yesterday evening as high winds pushed flames onto private property.
They were probably referring to the Chimney Tops 2 Fire.
(UPDATED at 10:13 a.m. EST November 29, 2016)
About 100 homes in Seiver County Tennessee have been either damaged or destroyed in wildfires that started in or near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee. The state’s Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) which conducted a quick preliminary survey, reported at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday that about 10 of those homes were in Gatlinburg. In addition, 30 other structures in Gatlinburg have been damaged or destroyed, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments near the Park Vista Hotel.