As fires tore through Tennessee on Monday, Nov. 28 and Tuesday, Nov. 29, citizens of cities along the Smoky Mountains fled for their lives. Leaving all non-essentials behind, they trekked through the flames, praying they’d make it to safety.
One look at the footage from this desperate mass exodus will show you a landscape that looks apocalyptic. Walls of flame on either side of the road, threatening to fall across the only exit out at any moment. Certainly not a journey for the faint of heart.
Dolly Parton, Queen of Country, a woman whose heart lies firmly in Tennessee, expressed her condolences over the tragedies that have resulted in the wake of this disaster. Though she’s busy filming in California, she’s kept an eye on what’s going on in her hometown and has also kept up steady prayers that no more lives or livelihoods would be lost.
— Chris Jackson (@ChrisJacksonSC) November 29, 2016
For a while she feared that Dollywood might go up in flames, but though a few guest cabins were evacuated, a fire break prevented the flames from consuming any buildings. The wildfires got incredibly close, but in the end they spared her domain.
Parton expressed that she’s been staying up-to-date with the fire news, and that she’s “heartbroken” over the mess that has ensued. She also said that she was “praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe.”
Her prayers and the prayers of countless others must have been answered in the affirmative, because as of Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 29, Fire Chief Greg Miller of the Gatlinburg area revealed that “The worst is definitely over.”
The deadly fire has consumed over 100 structures and has claimed three lives — but only three lives. Any loss of life is heart-breaking, but it’s a miracle that this raging fire didn’t take more.
The area of Tennessee affected by the wildfire had at least two conditions that made the fire so powerful. First, it has been experiencing a major drought, priming the cities as tinder. Second, a nearly 90 mph wind rushed through and pushed the fire across the land quickly on Monday night and Tuesday morning. These two factors created the perfect firestorm.
Though people have lost homes and businesses, the downtown area has been spared. Mike Werner, Mayor of Gatlinburg, addressed the public and stated that he thought he’d probably lost his own home as well.
“Our downtown’s intact, that’s really great for our economy and for the future of Gatlinburg. You know, a house fire is devastating, but when you get a city fire — that many people impacted, anything that anybody wants to reach out to help Gatlinburg, we’re more than willing to accept it.”
— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) November 29, 2016
Many people have also expressed concern over the state of Ripley’s Aquarium. Workers stayed as long as they could to protect the 10,518 animals who call the aquarium their home, but the workers had to be evacuated Monday night.
Many of them had to be forced to leave, because they wanted to stay with the animals. Fortunately, though the fire got very close, all the animals are fine and the structure was undamaged.
The people affected by this disaster could still definitely use prayer and support as they piece their lives back together, but thankfully it looks like the worst of this fiery nightmare is over.