PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Efforts to contain two wildfires burning in Sevier County continued overnight into Friday. Helicopters providing water airdrops and hotshot crew fire suppression operations are expected to resume, according to the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency and fire officials.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and Bruce Miller with the Tennessee Division of Forestry shared the latest information they had from incident commanders working the wildfires during a late morning press conference at the Ramsey Hotel.
Waters said no fatalities have been reported from either the Hatcher Mountain/Indigo Lane and Millstone Gap wildfires, which continue to burn in Sevier County and near the Blount County line.
Despite original projections estimating the Hatcher Mountain/Indigo Lane fire would impact 3,700 acres, Sevier County officials said Friday that current total is 2,675 burned acres.
A 20-person hotshot crew specializing in fire suppression is working the Millstone Gap fire in the Dupont community and Waters said they were feeling “better” about the Hatcher Mountain/Indigo Lane fire.
Friday morning, the Tennessee Department of Transportation reminded drivers that Wears Valley Road is still closed from Waldens Creek to Valley View. TDOT crews are in the area and assisting in fueling the response vehicles as well as traffic control.
Here’s what we know about both the Hatcher Mountain/Indigo Lane fire, which began mid-morning Wednesday, and the Millstone Gap fire, which began Thursday.
Wears Valley wildfire: Hatcher Mountain-Indigo Lane fire
- As of Friday afternoon, the wildfire in the Wears Valley community is 85% contained.
- The fire has burned 2,675 acres and affected more than 100 structures in the area.
- Teams are heading out Friday to assess the damage and investigate the Hatcher Mountain fire’s cause and origin.
- At least 11,000 homes have been evacuated since the start of the wildfires.
- Evacuation orders remain in place for homes within an area designated by Sevier County EMA; an evacuation map has been shared by the agency.
- No other injuries – apart from two firefighters and one resident – have been reported as of late Thursday.
- Five fire engines (4 county agency; 1 state agency) were lost during fire response, according to officials during a press conference Thursday morning.
- One of six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters deployed by the Tennessee National Guard to help bring more water to the area was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday due to engine failure; the crew was uninjured.
- Sevier County Schools are closed Friday due to the wildfires. Students will return to class April 11 after spring break.
Sevier/Blount County line: Millstone Gap fire
- Sevier County officials initially reported a fire off of Millstone Gap Road on Thursday in Seymour.
- The location of the fire is near the Sevier-Blount County line.
- As of Friday afternoon, the Millstone Gap fire spans roughly 575 acres and is 25% contained.
- At least one structure in Blount County has been affected.
- Mayor Waters said the fire grew Thursday into Friday because of the rough terrain that is difficult to access.
- A hotshot crew is working the Millstone Gap fire Friday.
Donations and how to help
Sevier County officials say the Sevier County Fairgrounds will be open to receive donations for Sevier County residents affected by the wildfires beginning Friday. Here’s the schedule for hours of operation:
- Friday, April 1, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Saturday, April 2, 1-5 p.m.
- Sunday, April 3, 1-5 p.m.
Starting Monday, the Sevier County Fairgrounds will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, April 4, to those affected by the wildfires and are in need of assistance. Donations will be accepted during regular operating hours.
Hours of operation
- Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.
- Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
For more information about helping those in need who have been affected by the fire, visit www.mountaintough.org
MountainTough.org, a website created to assist victims of the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, has been reactivated. Waters said the site will be updated Thursday with more information on how to assist those affected or how to donate to first responders. Shelters have been set up for evacuees at the Pigeon Forge Community Center and Seymour Heights Christian Church.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated.