Thousands Seek Shelter From Wildfires

Posted at 5:55 AM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 14:20:05-05

Thousands of people have been evacuated as a result of the devastating wildfires raging through the Smoky Mountains.

The mandatory evacuation was issued for downtown Gatlinburg and included Mynatt Park, Park Vista and Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg, and the south part of Pigeon Forge, close to Sevierville.

MORE: TN Wildfires Prompt Mandatory Evacuation Of Gatlinburg

Dean Flener with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said by phone that 14,000 people have been evacuated from Gatlinburg, alone. 

At least five evacuation centers have been opened for tourists and residents in Sevier County. More than 100 structures, including several homes, have either been damaged or destroyed. 

Around 80 people were forced to seek shelter at the Pigeon Forge Community Center.

Daniella Ball was one of many who evacuated with her family and spoke with NewsChannel 5 reporter Matthew Torres about the ordeal. 

“We could see the flames from where we lived,” she said. “Traffic was bad. It took us 30 minutes to get [to the community center] which is normally a 10-minute drive.”

The entrance to Gatlinburg has been blocked while crews continue to fight the blaze. 

Michelle Hankes with the East Tennessee Red Cross said people are dealing with both storms from a front that moved through the area overnight and fires at the same time - a scenario she called "unprecedented." 

Hankes said the best way for people to help right now is through monetary donations. Click here for more information.