GATLINBURG, Tenn. (MEDIA GENERAL) — Devastating video is emerging from the Great Smoky Mountains as wildfires spread overnight, forcing the evacuations of thousands from the tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Strong winds Monday caused a wildfire on Chimney Top Mountain to grow rapidly, prompting the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) to issue a Level 3 State of Emergency for Sevier County.
At the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg, guests and employees were trapped.
Sous chef Adam Palmeno posted video to his Facebook with the caption, “Definitely not safe.”
Hotel guest Logan Baker told WATE the fire came up to the parking lot of the hotel and firefighters said it wasn’t safe to leave.
Tennessee Rep. Jason Zachary shared video on Twitter of the fire threatening Sidney James Mountain Lodge on Airport Road in Gatlinburg.
Video from Loop Road in Gatlinburg shows what appears to be a home completely engulfed in flames.
The massive flames also threatened the Arrowmont School of the Arts and Crafts, also in Gatlinburg.
Executive Director Bill May told WATE most of the building survived and everyone is safe.
“All Arrowmont personnel are safe,” he said. “When I left campus the fire was approaching from the hillside above campus. Two of our dorms are gone and Red Barn was surrounded by fire.”
Pigeon Forge resident Vicky Cowden shared video on her Facebook page with the caption “this is HORRIBLE!”
By Tuesday morning, the video had been viewed more than 11 million times.
In total, more than 100 buildings were completely destroyed and 1,400 residents were evacuated.