'Dollywood' theme park at risk as wildfires rage in southern US

2016-11-29 21:30
Damage caused by wildfires around Gatlinburg. (Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Damage caused by wildfires around Gatlinburg. (Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

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Washington - Wildfires raging across the US southeast are bearing down on Dollywood, the glitzy theme park founded in Tennessee by American country music legend Dolly Parton.

Officials said dozens of fires are burning in the state, fanned by high winds and fuelled by parched vegetation after weeks of drought.

Dollywood, located near the Smoky Mountains National Park, is one of several popular resort attractions in east Tennessee threatened by the fires.

Parton released a public service announcement on Sunday urging visitors and residents of the region to exercise caution when handling fire, even as the blaze was nearing her iconic theme park.

"I love these Smoky Mountains that I call home, and I know you do too. Help protect their beauty and prevent human-caused wild fires," Parton, 70, says in the ad.

News reports said portions of Dollywood have been evacuated as wind speeds topped 110km/h in some parts of Tennessee, which has been hit by the worst drought in nearly a decade.

Her 120ha amusement resort is one of the region's most popular draws with rides and musical events that sometimes include appearances by Parton and her family.

Tennessee's Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for maintaining the state's forests, said Tuesday there are 47 active fires that so far have consumed nearly 6 070ha. 

Hundreds of firefighters, meanwhile, have descended in the town of Gatlinburg, a popular tourist resort and a gateway to the Smoky Mountains, to co-ordinate efforts to extinguish the fires.

News reports there said several homes and businesses in the town have been destroyed, including a 16-storey hotel, and hundreds of other properties have been evacuated.

"The state is providing co-ordinated resources, including Nat'l Guard, to help Gatlinburg, all those affected by devastating fires," Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.

Read more on:    us  |  wildfires

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