Mercury One has always been committed to helping those in their time of need.
GATLINBURG & PIGEON FORGE WILDFIRES
On November 28, 2016 wildfires that originated the Smoky Mountains spread to hundreds of acres of inhabited land. Due to high winds and the extreme growth rate of the wildfires, a Level 3 State of Emergency was issued and residents of Gatlinburg, Mynatt Park, Park Vista, Ski Mounty, and Pigeon Forge were forced to evacuate from their homes as a matter of safety from the raging wildfires.
As the fires continued on, devastating homes and communities in its path, Mercury One and our partners were on the ground to help with relief efforts. During this time Mercury One responded with truckloads of bottled water, cleaning supplies, and blankets. Four of our partners joined Mercury One on the ground helping to asses the damage and set up hot meal centers.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and donors Mercury One was able to effectively help those affected by the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge wildfires. Thank you for your continued support of Mercury One and our disaster reliefs efforts.
Initial Breaking News 11/29/16
Over the past week, wildfires that started out small in the Smoky Mountains have spread to hundreds of acres of inhabited land. Contributing to the extreme growth rate of the fires, high winds knocked down trees into power lines, sparking even more new fires and spreading embers over large distances on Monday night (11/28). Winds have been as strong at 87 mph, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief, Greg Miller. Although there had been rain since the fires have spread, it has not been enough to even make a dent in the wildfires. Rainfall amounts have been 10-15 inches below normal over the last three months, which is one of the reasons this wildfire is so destructive.
Authorities have issued a Level 3 State of Emergency and ordered evacuations in the following areas as of Monday: Gatlinburg, Mynatt Park, Park Vista, Ski Mounty and Pigeon Forge. The National Guard has been deployed to help with these evacuations.
So far, three deaths have been reported, all due to different circumstances. Over 1,400 residents and visitors alike have been evacuated from Gatlinburg alone, and at least 250 buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
Dollywood amusement park remains untouched, although Officials with the park say the fire is burning just steps away from the front entrance. However, more than a dozen cabins operated by the park have been damaged. Another major tourist attraction, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, also appears to be intact so far, although employees were forced to flee and leave the 10,000 fish and other animals under the protection of a generator at the facility.
Dozens of people are currently trapped in the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg. The only road to get down from the hotel is blocked by downed trees that have been engulfed in flames. The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa in Gatlinburg is completely gone. Many other small fires are still burning in Downtown Gatlinburg, as well.
All facilities at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been closed due to fire and downed trees. Authorities at the park have rescued 29 hikers in Servier County from the raging fire.
News Update 11/30/16
These are the worst fires Tennessee has seen in over 100 years. Contributing to the destruction is the category one hurricane force winds that pushed the fires from the mountains into the more inhabited areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on Monday afternoon. As of Tuesday morning, firefighters were battling more than 20 large fires. Although an inch of rain fell on Tuesday night, the threat is still imminent.
140 homes have been lost and 250 buildings, including historic landmarks, have been destroyed completely (100 of these in Gatlinburg alone). The Mayor of Gatlinburg is among those who lost his home as well as his business to the flames. Dollywood, however, remains intact and plans to reopen on Friday.
The death toll is now confirmed to be four, and 14 people have been hospitalized.
Mercury One’s partners will be on the ground this weekend to assess the damage. Updates to come. To assist us in our efforts to help those affected from this wildfire, please donate today.
News Update 12/01/16
We now know that the flames that swept through Gatlinburg did so in less than 15 minutes, fanned by the high category one hurricane force winds. According to several officials, the area is just fortunate that these wildfires did not occur over the Thanksgiving weekend when the number of visitors would have been much higher and the evacuations would have been much riskier.
Officials have now confirmed seven deaths as of Wednesday (11/30) and 45 injuries. However, many are fearful of additional fatalities because of several missing persons. Debris and downed power lines have limited authorities’ access to explore the affected areas.
Gatlinburg remains on lockdown to those who want to enter and a curfew is still in effect from 6 PM to 6 AM. Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines: State Highway 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency vehicles, and 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open only to evacuating traffic.
17,000 acres have been scorched, and rains on Wednesday helped, but there are still many hot spots to remain wary of. Although the main street businesses in Gatlinburg have been somewhat unaffected, 700 businesses and homes on the outskirts were damaged or destroyed. As a result of this, close to 1,000 people are now unemployed. Town officials are very concerned about the effect this will have on tourism as both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are resort destination towns.
Mercury One spoke with Kelly Green yesterday, who works with the Great Smoky Mountain Parks. According to her, the parks remain closed, even to employees, due to hot spots and fallen trees. One of the park’s most popular trails had just re-opened after undergoing maintenance; Kelly is not certain how this trail faired.
News Update 12/02/16
- 17,000 acres have been scorched
- 700 homes and businesses have been destroyed
- 11 are dead, 74 injured
The search of areas that were impacted by the fires in and around Gatlinburg is close to completion, and it is hoped it will be finished by sometime today. In the areas that have been marked safe, some business owners and residents will be able to have access to their properties from 10AM-5PM today.
All fires are out in the county and in Gatlinburg, but various hot spots remain. Several roads are still closed due to downed power lines and said hot spots. Fires, however, are still actively burning in the national park.
News Update 12/05/16
As of yesterday (12/4), 1,700 structures have been deemed at a total loss. Two fires remain active and are 31% and 42% contained. Four more bodies were found and the shelters are still completely full.
Sevier County has not received a disaster declaration, which prevents this area from potentially receiving federal funds. This also means that the city and county have proclaimed that the residents are responsible for the removal of ash and debris from their properties as well as the disposal of it. However, the local dump will refuse the disposal of ash or burned materials due to the potential of embers starting new fires.
Tennessee will have a tremendous amount of unmet needs in both response and recovery assistance to the affected areas. The outpouring of donations will need to be met with more warehousing for the goods being brought in.
Mercury One worked with our partners on the ground to secure warehousing and to fund needed aid to the area.
News Update 12/06/16
Thankfully, this disaster has moved very quickly from a relief phase to a recovery phase.
Currently, the area is focusing on the huge outpouring of supplies that have come in, and as a result, a 100,000 sq. foot warehouse has been secured. Additionally, volunteer centers have been set up to put people to work in this rebuilding process.
Between 12,000 and 14,000 people have volunteered to help in some capacity, and this has probably in part due to the sheer emotion that has been brought out in people; many families have been to Gatlinburg, and it has become somewhat of a symbol of America that captures your heart once you arrive.
News Update 12/09/16
These Great Smoky Mountain Wildfires are confirmed to be the deadliest fires in Eastern US history since the Great Fires of Maine in 1947. The towns that were impacted the most are Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which are both resort cities in Sevier County.
The fires have claimed at least 14 lives, injured 134 and destroyed or damaged more than 1,700 structures. They are considered one of the largest natural disasters in Tennessee’s history. This past Wednesday, Gatlinburg residents, and business owners were allowed to move back into homes and establishments that had not been affected.
Two unnamed juveniles from Tennessee, but not Sevier County, have been charged with aggravated arson in connection to these devastating fires. Officials, however, have released very few details about how they think the fires were started.
Authorities have not yet released a dollar amount on the damage caused by the wildfires, and the area hasn’t received a Presidential Disaster Declaration, which could truly hamper the rebuilding process.
Miraculously, historic downtown Gatlinburg was spared, with fires coming within minutes of this charming destination. The city is slated to open to the public this morning at 6 AM.
Outside of the damage to structures and the loss of life, there will also be an economic disaster for this area as this is the height of the travel season for Gatlinburg.
News Update 12/19/16
President Obama finally signed a disaster declaration for federal aid to Eastern Tennessee. This is wonderful news for the area because this it will allow for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured properties and other programs to help home and business owners to get back on their feet.
Authorities have announced the damage total at $500 million.
Mercury One has been working with partners to provide support and aid. Two truckloads were sent at the onset with cleaning supplies and blankets, gift cards to those most in need, and safety masks for our first responding partners.
How can you help Mercury One’s disaster relief efforts?
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