Troops to help as wildfires spread in Smokies

2016-11-29 16:23
Fire erupts on both side of Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. (Jessica Tezak, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Fire erupts on both side of Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. (Jessica Tezak, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

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Atlanta - The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says National Guard troops are being sent in to help out as wildfires continue to spread in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas in the Smoky Mountains National Park.

TEMA spokesperson Dean Flener says the troops will transport first responders, perform welfare checks and remove debris.

Emergency officials in Tennessee ordered evacuations due to the blaze in downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and in other areas of Sevier County. Officials say the wildfire has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-storey hotel. TEMA says no deaths have been reported, though one person was burned while evacuating.

Officials say there are about 1 200 people sheltering at the Gatlinburg Community Centre and the Rocky Top Sports Park.

As storms approached some of the largest wildfires burning in the South, the rain signalled new hope for firefighters working to put them out.

But authorities said the storms were also bringing high winds, which could topple the many dead trees and branches in burning forests and pose a threat to firefighters.

Experts also predicted that rains from one storm system wouldn't be enough to end the relentless drought that's spread across several states.

Read more on:    us  |  wildfires

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