On Tuesday morning, the resort city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the surrounding area were overcome by a series of massive wildfires triggered by strong winds, drought conditions and a much smaller fire originating from the nearby Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The fires raged through the day and night on Monday, but come Tuesday, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency issued an official evacuation order for all of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and other towns and facilities in the region. Reports indicate that over 14,000 people have already left the area.
Dubbed the “Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains” by locals and the tourism industry, Gatlinburg boasts a population of just over 4,000 people according to the 2012 census. However, considering the permanent population of Pigeon Forge and other nearby communities — as well as the ongoing array of tourists visiting the area for its parks and nearly in-season ski resorts — TEMA’s evacuation order applied to a much larger swathe of people.
Per local CBS affiliate WLVT, around 50 to 60 fire crews and “150 personnel from outside the area” were battling the fires throughout the night on Monday and early Tuesday. Despite their efforts, at least four people with burns have been transported to area hospitals for treatment. Three of these remain in critical condition, according to a representative of Vanderbilt Medical Center, though no fatalities due to the fires have been reported as of this writing.