Gatlinburg fires appear to destroy 3 resorts

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Three Gatlinburg-area resorts appear to have been destroyed by wildfires in the popular tourist area in eastern Tennessee, state emergency management spokesman Dean Flener said Tuesday morning.

The resorts are the Ober Gatlinburg amusement park and ski area, the Black Bear Falls log-cabin rental resort, and the Westgate Mountain Resort & Spa, Flener said, citing initial reports from Sevier County emergency management officials.

Flener said at least four people have been injured in the wildfires, which have been spurred by strong winds and the Southeast’s worst drought in nearly a decade. The fires have forced evacuations from downtown Gatlinburg — a city of about 4,000 residents but a vacation attraction for many more — as well as the town of Pigeon Forge and nearby communities.

“If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said Monday evening as crews battled wind gusts of up to 70 mph.

On Monday afternoon, a wildfire from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread rapidly into nearby communities. Strong gusts scattered embers across long distances, starting fires that fed off drought-stricken trees. The winds also knocked down power lines, igniting new fires, according to authorities.

“Everything was like a perfect storm,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to CNN affiliate WATE.

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