On Wednesday, November 23rd a wildfire began in the Chimney Tops area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As of today, December 4th, officials are only saying the fire is believed to be “human caused.” Prior to the fire, there had been a burn ban in the area due to drought conditions.
By Sunday, November 27th, the fire at Chimney Tops had grown to 10 acres in size. On Monday, November 28th, hurricane force wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour caused the fire to move into Gatlinburg.
Due to the high winds, the fire quickly spread. The fires continued to spread until heavy rains early Tuesday morning, along with firefighters from all over the nation, helped to get the fires under control.
The wildfire ultimately destroyed or damaged approximately 1,400 structures, primarily homes, vacation homes, businesses and churches. The hardest hit areas were cabin communities in Gatlinburg, particularly Chalet Village and cabins in the Cobbly Nob area. There were also a much smaller percentage of cabins and homes affected in the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area. These cabins and homes were located outside the Dollywood area. Also, an area of homes/cabins in Wears Valley was affected. Most tragically of all, thirteen people have been reported to have lost their lives due to the wildfires.
Our Cabins Plus All the Major Tourist Attractions Made it Through!
We have been extremely touched by the outpouring of concern and support we’ve received from our past and future guests. We’ve had so many e-mails, Facebook messages and phone calls come through to ask us if we and our cabins are safe. We cannot tell you what this means to us! We can honestly say that we were terrified that we were going to lose everything that we’ve worked so hard at for the past four years. We knew our guests were safe, because they evacuated. We love these cabins so much. We’ve put so much time and energy into trying to make them perfect. We’ve made so many memories there. We love the area so much that we’ve begun taking steps to prepare to move there in the future.
We had some pretty big moments of panic. The police evacuated Brookstone Village, the resort complex where Bigfoot Crossing, Sasquatch Ridge and Hoedown Hideaway (our friends’ cabin they just purchased less than a month earlier) are located. We had some rain on Monday night but it didn’t last long enough. We were anxiously watching our security cameras for any sign of fire. Just as the rain stopped, the winds picked back up and the news was reporting that the fires were picking up again. As that was all happening, we lost all security cameras at once. I (Jody) was convinced it was because the fires had reached us. Needless to say it was a sleepless night with lots of crying!
Tuesday morning we were able to find out that we had just lost power. The fires hadn’t reached either of the resorts where we have cabins. As the day wore on, we found out even more amazing news. The fires not only didn’t reach our cabins or the areas surrounding them but they also didn’t destroy any of the major attractions that people come to the area for. There were no fires in Dollywood, despite the cabins near it catching on fire. Not one business in Pigeon Forge was affected by the fires. The fires never reached Cades Cove nor Clingman’s Dome.
The most amazing news of all is that the Gatlinburg strip is intact!! Though a hotel next to Ripley’s Aquarium burned down, the aquarium itself was unscathed! This was big news to us because we were very worried about all their fish and animals that had no way to evacuate. All the businesses right on the Gatlinburg strip are also intact.
This is all very good news for the people who live in the area who have already experienced so much loss. The Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area depends on tourism for their economy. To lose the attractions would cause even more loss of jobs and residents need to be able to continue working as the area builds back up.
These photos were taken in Pigeon Forge on the night of November 30th by a friend who is a photographer and also owns cabins in the area, Amy Greener. As you can see, Pigeon Forge is intact and was open for business the day after the fires.
What Can We All Do to Help?
We are devastated by the loss of lives, property and forestry in our beloved Smoky Mountain region. While we would have been incredibly sad to lose any one of our cabins, that would not compare to those who lost family members, homes or their primary source of income. Here are things we can all do to help the local residents and victims of the wildfire:
- The first thing that the city mayors, the governor and locals say is “please come visit!” The national news may have given an impression that Gatlinburg and the surrounding area was burnt to ashes and there’s nothing left to see. That’s not true! The attractions you’ve come to love are still there. Only a small percentage of the overall area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was affected by the wildfires. There is still plenty to see and do in the area. When you travel to the Smokies, eat in the restaurants, visit the attractions and shop in the stores you are helping people keep their jobs.
- If you reserve a future stay with Bigfoot Cabins during the month of December, we will donate 5% of your rental amount to The Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund. This fund will be donating $1,000 for each family who lost their primary home for 6 months in order to help get them back on their feet.
- If you’d like to donate directly to the My People Fund, you can do so here: Dollywood Foundation
- Show your support and order a Smokies Strong shirt. All proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross to aide those affected by the fires. Order Shirt