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A raging wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park forced mandatory evacuations in the Tennessee resort towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, with visitors of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood forced to flee as well, even though the fire hadn’t reached the theme park. USA Today reported that as of Tuesday morning, roads around the towns were packed with motorists fleeing the fires, which had been whipped up by high winds.
Pete Owens, a spokesperson for Dollywood, said in the statement that no structures in the park had been damaged, but that fire crews for the area’s largest theme park were standing by if needed. With flames approaching a ridge near the park, staff evacuated 19 cabins in Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins resort area, as well as guests from 50 rooms at the DreamMore Resort.
ABC News reported that Dean Flener, a spokesperson with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said the wildfires had reached “right on the doorstep” of Dollywood, but that crews had stopped the fires from breaching the park overnight. The fires have burned more than 100 homes in the surrounding area so far, injuring one, with more than 1,000 people in a local shelter as of Monday night.
A statement released Tuesday morning updated the status of the park. “Wildfires in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains continue to affect several areas of Sevier County including Dollywood,” it read. “An assessment this morning revealed no damage to the Dollywood park itself but more than a dozen cabins managed through Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins were damaged or destroyed. As the cities continue to assess the damage and impact of the fires, Dollywood has suspended park operation for Wednesday, November 30. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort will be open on limited basis for those in need and for registered guests.”
— Kurt Chirbas (@kchirbas) November 29, 2016
In a separate statement, Parton said, “I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
Later on Tuesday, the park announced that it will focus the next two days on supporting the community and will resume normal operations Friday at 2 p.m.
“Dollywood hosts have joined in supporting the needs of their fellow hosts affected as well as assisting other area businesses in supplying personal care items to the shelter at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge and they continue to feed and house firefighters and first responders,” read a statement. “Thanks to the hard work by community firefighters and first responders, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is open to guests. The Dollywood theme park will resume normal operation on Friday.”
This story first appeared on billboard.com
Nov. 29, 6:10 p.m. ET: Updated with Dollywood reopen statement.
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