The Latest: Death toll from Tennessee wildfires rises to 10

Smoke rises from the remains of the Alamo Steak House Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tenn., after a wildfire swept through the area Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Smoke rises from the remains of the Alamo Steak House Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tenn., after a wildfire swept through the area Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee mayor says that the death toll from wildfires earlier this week has increased to 10.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said Thursday afternoon that authorities had discovered three additional deaths. He did not release any details about the fatalities and said authorities are still working to positively identify the remains.

Hurricane-force winds fueled wildfires on Monday night, forcing more than 14,000 residents and tourists to evacuate the city of Gatlinburg.

Below, you’ll find the latest updates on the Tennessee wildfires (all times local):

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11:50 a.m.

Tennessee officials say they are making significant progress searching for any survivors in homes and businesses that were scorched by wildfires earlier this week.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said Thursday that the death toll from the fires stands at seven. He says the number of injured has increased to about 75 people, including some who had to go to the hospital Wednesday. He did not release specifics about the injuries but did say that most of the people had been released from the hospital.

Authorities are following up on dozens of leads about missing people, but they do not know exactly how many people may be missing. Officials say most of the burned areas will have been searched by the end of Thursday.

A burned car sits in a parking lot Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tenn., after a wildfire swept through the area Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
A burned car sits in a parking lot Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Gatlinburg, Tenn., after a wildfire swept through the area Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

More than 14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuated Monday night when high winds spread wildfires throughout the area near the Great Smoky Mountains.

Many people are still anxiously waiting to get back into Gatlinburg to see if their home has been damaged.

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9 a.m.

When authorities decide it’s safe for people to return to the fire-devastated city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mark Howard knows what he’ll find: nothing.

The 57-year-old, privately employed handyman discovered that his house had been consumed by the wildfires raging through the Great Smoky Mountains while flat on his back with pneumonia in a hospital. He says he had no insurance.

Howard is one of thousands of people still waiting to be allowed back into Gatlinburg, a normally bustling tourist town on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that has been closed since Monday night. Authorities said they plan to announce details at an 11 a.m. news conference about when people can expect to be let in to check on their properties.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner has said officials are thinking about reopening the resort city as early as Friday. Werner lost the home he built himself along with all seven buildings of the condominium business he owned.

Howard was released from the hospital Wednesday night, and spent the night at a hotel in Pigeon Forge. He says he’ll move to a nearby hotel that is giving a discounted rate to fire victims. After that, he’ll have to start over from scratch.

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7:30 a.m.

Country music legend Dolly Parton says she’s establishing a fund to help victims of the wildfires that burned hundreds of homes and businesses in the Great Smoky Mountains area and left seven dead.

She says The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation are establishing the My People Fund, which will provide $1,000 monthly to Sevier County families who lost their homes.

More than 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg on Monday night and many of them are still nervously awaiting word of when they can get back in the city to see if they still have homes.

The flames reached the doorstep of Dollywood, the theme park named after Parton. The park was spared any significant damage and will reopen Friday.

Parton said she hopes the financial assistance will help people who lost everything get back on their feet again.

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7:35 a.m.

The superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National park says the wildfires that devastated parts of eastern Tennessee were likely human-caused.

Cassius Cash’s comments, made Wednesday afternoon, were reported by The Washington Post. Seven people have been killed in the wildfires which destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, many in the Gatlinburg area.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said officials were discussing the possibility of re-opening the town Friday, which would give business owners and residents their first look at the damage in a city that’s been closed since Monday night.

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3 a.m.

After nearly 24 hours of drenching rain helped quench a series of devastating wildfires in eastern Tennessee, local officials began turning to cleanup and recovery efforts.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said officials were discussing the possibility of re-opening the town Friday, which would give business owners and residents their first look at the damage in a city that’s been closed since Monday night.

Werner was one of several city officials managing the crisis while dealing with personal losses. He lost his home and his business.

Officials discovered three more bodies Wednesday, raising the death toll to seven. Three other people who had been trapped since the wildfires began were rescued.

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