As most of my readers know, the Smoky Mountains are very near and dear to my heart. My family and I love to go hiking and spend the weekends in the mountains when we get the chance. We are lucky enough to only have a 45-minute drive to the most beautiful place in the southeast. Unfortunately, tragedy struck this week when an enormous wildfire spread. The wildfire started at one of my favorite hiking destinations, the Chimney Tops.
The wildfire started at one of my favorite hiking destinations, the Chimney Tops. Monday afternoon we had some extreme winds in the mountains, some gusts up to 87 mph, which caused the wildfire to spread. The fire spread from one mountain to another and eventually made it’s way down to Gatlinburg and on into parts of Pigeon Forge.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are both very popular tourist destinations. While the population of people who live there is small, these towns get 10 million visitors a year. People come from all over the world to visit, take in the mountains and enjoy some popular destinations like Dollywood.
Over 700 homes and business have been destroyed or heavily damaged from this wildfire. And as of today, December 2nd there have been 13 deaths dues to the fire. Officials are still going door to door to survey the damage and look for lost friends and family members.
It is going to take some time to rebuild and there are still low lying fires burning on the Chimney Tops. On a positive note, the response from the community has been amazing. Tuesday morning thousands of people woke up and immediately started gathering truck loads of donations to take up there for the displaced community and firefighters who have worked round the clock. The donations have been so overwhelming that the city officials asked people to put a hold on the item donations because they are running out of space at their unit.
If you want to help the community I encourage anyone who can to donate to the Dollywood Foundation. Dolly Parton made a pledge to donate $1,000 a month for the next 6 months to anyone who has lost their home to the wildfires. She is asking for donations to help with this effort. You can donate by visiting Dollywoodfoundation.com.