GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires in Tennessee that killed seven people and destroyed hundreds of buildings (all times local):
A Tennessee mayor says three more bodies have been recovered after the wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains, bringing the death toll to seven.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said Wednesday that officials believe more than 400 buildings have been damaged in the county. He also noted that three people who were trapped after the wildfires Monday night have been rescued. He did not go into details about the rescue, and said authorities have not positively identified the dead.
He says search-and-rescue missions are ongoing.
Authorities say the wildfire that spread embers and flames into Gatlinburg, igniting new blazes and forcing thousands to evacuate, is now 10 percent contained.
Officials say it’s the third-largest ongoing fire in the Southeast.
A Wednesday report from the federal team managing the blaze says the Chimney 2 Fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is more than 15,600 acres — about 25 times the size of the University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville.
Though rain has fallen Wednesday, fire officials say the wildfire threat isn’t over.
Bonnie Strawser, with the team of fire officials working to suppress the blaze, said the fire “could still rear its head.” Strawser said rainfall reports Wednesday night or early Thursday should provide a better picture of how much rain has fallen on the fire.
The mayor of Gatlinburg says officials are discussing re-opening the city later this week after wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said Wednesday that the resort mountain city may re-open Friday so business owners can assess the damage and hopefully begin paying their employees again.
He says the evacuation orders must remain in place until then because there are still areas that haven’t been searched and places where power lines are down.
The wildfires killed four people and injured dozens more.
A Tennessee mayor is confirming another fatality in the wildfires that swept through the Great Smoky Mountains, raising the death toll to four.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also said Wednesday that nearly four dozen people had been injured in the fires.
The wildfires destroyed more than 150 buildings. Heavy rain fell early Wednesday, which is helping put out some of the wildfires, but officials say more than 200 firefighters are still out battling flames and hotspots.
Rain is moving through a Tennessee tourism region ravaged by wildfires, but officials say there are still active fires in the area.
Tod Hyslop, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Morristown, Tennessee, says the Gatlinburg area got about ¾ of an inch to 1 inch of rain overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.
He says rain will pick up midday Wednesday through the afternoon and taper off about 4 or 5 p.m. The system is moving slowly, which increases the chances of more rain.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener said any rain will help, but the fires are still an “ongoing situation.”
A Tennessee tourist mecca is emerging from the smoke, charred and vacant.
During wildfires Monday night, many buildings in Gatlinburg were burned to their foundation. Hotel fire alarms eerily echoed through empty streets lined with burned out cars Tuesday evening.
Three people were killed. The fire destroyed at least 150 buildings, including iconic homes and a resort. Other buildings and attractions remained largely intact, including the Dollywood amusement park in nearby Pigeon Forge.
Wildfires have been burning for several weeks across the drought-stricken South. But Monday marked the first time homes and businesses were destroyed on a large scale.
Gatlinburg, a city that opens up to 11 million visitors annually, is facing a new reality. But Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his home, says his town will pull together and recover.
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