TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WATE) — Voluntary evacuations in Blount County that were announced overnight have been lifted after crews fought to contain a wildfire on Rich Mountain Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Townsend Area Volunteer Fire Department announced just after 9 a.m. Tuesday that evacuations had been lifted as they scaled back the response to the Rich Mountain Gap and Townsend-area fires. A voluntary evacuation had been requested for the following areas early Tuesday morning:
- Lequire Rd
- Lail Ln
- School House Gap Rd
- Rich Mountain Rd
- Portions of Dry Valley Rd
- Portions of Old Cades Cove Rd
- Portions of Little Springs Rd
A shelter has been set up at Tuckaleechee United Methodist Church at 7322 Tuckaleechee Rd.
Townsend Elementary School also announced that it will be closed Tuesday, Nov. 21 due to wildfires in the area.
The fire began Monday amid high winds and burn bans, with the Tennessee Division of Forestry saying Monday afternoon that they are responding to reports of a fire on Rich Mountain Gap near Townsend. A GSMNP spokesperson said that the fire was estimated to be about 5-7 acres.
Tuesday morning, a GSMNP spokesperson said winds from the south caused the fire to grow to about 6 acres. The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain and is burning primarily in the park boundary at this time.
The National Park Service has also ordered additional resources, including air support and more engines. If conditions allow, air resources will be used today to assist fire resources in suppression efforts.
GSMNP also confirmed that Blount County coordinated an early-morning voluntary evacuation of homes near the park boundary. High wind and red flag warnings remain in effect for the area until later Tuesday. Several roads and campgrounds within the park remain closed for employee and visitor safety. A parkwide burn ban is also in effect until further notice.
Representatives from Blount County EMA, Blount County 911, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Blount County AMR, Townsend Police and Fire, Sevier Electric and Blount County Highway Department are currently staffing the Blount County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the 911 center.
Residents and businesses were sent the following message from the Townsend Police Department:
“THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM THE TOWNSEND POLICE AND FIRE DISPATCH. VOLUNTARY EVACUATION SUGGESTED FOR OCCUPANTS BETWEEN DRY VALLEY ROAD AND SCHOOL HOUSE GAP ROAD AND THE NATIONAL PARK BOUNDARY DUE TO WILDFIRE OPERATIONS IN THE NATIONAL PARK.”
Rich Mountain Gap is located in the eastern part of Blount County on the border of the park.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated.