Gatlinburg in Flames:

How the Gatlinburg Fire Affects Everyone


The wildfire in Gatlinburg burning down the woods. (Image credit to CNN)

Rachel Bell, Messenger Reporter

The national news has been filled with word of the wildfires happening in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The thought of a city that many people in our area cherish as a vacation spot is terrifying and heartbreaking. Many people in our area have family and friends in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but others just want to know different ways they can help.

14,000 residents have been evacuated from the region. In addition to the loss of more than 2,400 properties destroyed or damaged, nearly 150 people have been injured and 14 have died as a result of the fires. According to ABC News, these are Tennessee’s worst fires in one hundred years. Recently, it was reported that two teenagers were the cause of the fire. While their names have not been released, it is known that they have been taken into custody and will be charged with aggravated arson, with potential additional charges. The region was suffering from its worst drought in ten years, so a burn ban was put in effect. Winds were a factor in the spread of the fires. Since Gatlinburg is considered that gateway to the Smoky Mountains, the vast forests also aided the expanding inferno.

Luckily, the recent rains have helped firefighters put the fires out, so businesses and residents are gradually returning to their homes to salvage what they can. has a list of what in Gatlinburg is intact, damaged, and destroyed. Ripley’s Aquarium made national news for having to leave over ten thousand animals while employees evacuated. The undamaged aquarium has since been returned to, and the animals have been confirmed to be unharmed. Cupid’s Chapel of Love, a popular wedding chapel, was tragically destroyed. The photo of the building burning has gone viral, leaving many people to mourn the loss of the place where they said their vows.

Dollywood, arguably the region’s most famous attraction, lost a few cabins, but the amusement parks itself is not damaged. Dolly Parton, the country singer, and owner of Dollywood has been the most outspoken celebrities for the aid of victims of the wildfires due to the fact that she was born and raised in the region. Parton has pledged to give $1,000 a month to every family whose homes were destroyed in the fires, for up to six months. She created the My People Fund for this philanthropy and is accepting donations, which are tax-refundable. To donate, visit

Of course, there are other ways people in our area can help the victims of the Gatlinburg wildfires. So many people have donated clothes and food to the American Red Cross, they have asked for “a pause”. Monetary donations are still accepted. Many local churches are also participating in relief efforts. The Tennessean has a list of places one can donate to as well. Gatlinburg is a special place for many people in our area, as well as all over the country. With help, it can be rebuilt and its people can recover.