GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Several restaurants and gift shops were reported a “total loss” after a fire broke out in downtown Gatlinburg early Sunday morning.
The City of Gatlinburg confirmed Monday that one person was found dead in one of the structures damaged by the fire. The identity of the victim has not been released.
The buildings were all on the 700 block of Parkway.
After being closed due to the fire Sunday morning, the Parkway reopened Monday afternoon.
“[I feel] heartbroken because this is where Kennedy’s Concept started. Originally it was their first restaurant,” said Autumn Taylor, director of operations of Kennedy Concepts.
Kennedy Concepts owns several restaurants on the Parkway in Gatlinburg.
The owners were notified at 7 a.m. Sunday morning that a fire broke out in one of their buildings
“One of our beloved restaurants, Puckers, is involved in this event. We also own Loco Burro and Johnny Rockets and Crawdaddy’s here,” Taylor said.
Other businesses like Cafe420 and Funnel Cakes and Indian Cuisine were also located in the same building.
The Plantz family was visiting the area from Ohio and were about to head back home when they heard what was happening.
“This morning we were packing up to leave Laurel Inn Condominiums and I heard some sirens while I was packing the Jeep up and as we got in the vehicle to leave, I saw a pillar of dark black smoke,” Kevin Plantz said.
Kevin is a volunteer firefighter back where he lives.
“Law enforcement had the road already blocked off and wouldn’t let us get any closer but what we saw was a pillar of very dark black smoke which is indicative of a working structure fire,” he said.
His wife, Sandra, said the flames were so big she worried about the fire spreading to other buildings.
“You’re worried about how many stores or how much property is going to be lost,” she said ”So, it was scary for the downtown area, and everyone who was involved.”
One of the business owners has hired a private contractor to demolish part of the building for safety purposes.
This is an ongoing investigation. At this time, no cause has been released.
Gatlinburg’s trolley service has been suspended for the day due to the closure of the Parkway.
Editor’s Note: WATE will be sure to update you with any new information.