SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. - Dozens of cabins go up in flames at a vacation resort in Pigeon Forge, charring more than 160 acres of land. Click here to see photos of the fire and resulting damage.
News 5 went to Sevier County today and talked with those battling the blaze about the extent of the damage.
Pigeon Forge's fire chief told us he got the call around 4:20 Sunday afternoon of a cabin on fire. He said sleep has been an afterthought as crews fight what he called an 'inferno.'
A fiery scene made for the movies becomes reality in Pigeon Forge. "It was unlike anything you've ever seen before in your life. You had fire in those three-story cabins just going from top to bottom," said Tony Watson, chief of the Pigeon Forge Fire Department.
Flames scorched a mountainside just two miles away from the heart of Pigeon Forge. Officials said flames sparked in the Black Bear Ridge Resort, quickly spreading to 65 cabins in its path. 59 of those are destroyed.
We learned 150 people were evacuated from the area, leaving Andrew Endris, a vacationer from Indiana, unsure of what to do next. "It wasn't our building, but all our belongings were in there. We have the clothes on our back and our car, and that's about it," Endris told News 5.
Officials said battling the flames put fire crews from 25 different stations in danger. "You couldn't get to it, because there were roads already over the fire, and you couldn't go up there. The conditions were unbelievable [and] hot," said Watson.
Firefighters said the flames are contained, but their main concern is the wind which has been unrelenting since the fire started. "Wind-driven fires are the most dangerous fires," said Watson. "The wind was pushing it so hard that it pushed it across the roads."
Three Blackhawk helicopters from the Tennessee Air National Guard dumped water from nearby Douglas Lake from the air as military officials eyed the hotspots with technology from the ground.
It was a synchronized effort that may have helped to save Kevin Henry's house. Even while evacuated, a friend told him his home on the mountain still stands. "He got in and said, 'the flames went totally around us.' [It's] just a little shell, so God's good. That's all we need," said Henry.
The fire chief told us it could take several days for all flames to be put out, but Monday afternoon's rain has helped tremendously.
We also spoke with Congressman Phil Roe after he surveyed some of the damage. He said a tragedy in our region could help him as he works to find funds for this emergency. "When we looked at the floods down in Dry Creek, we found some resources in the federal government that could help, and this strains [emergency agencies]. For instance, one fire hose that burned up was $1,500," said Congressman Roe.