Unyielding wildfires that have burned hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate to safer ground in eastern Tennessee were exacerbated by what authorities described today as “hurricane force winds.”
Officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said it is likely that 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the city of Gatlinburg alone, and that the fires are still burning, buoyed by what was described as 75 mph winds.
Efforts to extinguish the blaze are still very much underway, officials said. They described firefighters across the state as scrambling to make a dent in the blazes that have devastated Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas in Sevier County.
The Tennessee National Guard has been brought in to dump water onto the flames from a helicopter.
The Tennessee Management Agency states on its website that wildfires began in the Great Smoky Mountains, and spread “very rapidly” as the winds pushed the flames onto private property.
Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines as a result of the fires.
Social media users posted shocking images of the fires overnight. One Instagram user posted a video taken from a car window of what looks like an endless horizon of fire.
Another Instagram user posted a dramatic video of downtown Gatlinburg choked with smoke. In the video, a fire truck penetrates the haze with its sirens blaring.
Steven Soloman, a Facebook user, posted a video today of the devastation left behind in an area where the fire passed through the night before. He showed the area where he says a cabin once stood that has now become a flat pile of burnt rubble. He also says the family that lived there had to be rescued by firefighters because downed power lines prevented them from leaving.