The Latest: Officials say thousands evacuated, 4 injured


ATLANTA (AP) — The Latest on wildfires burning across the South (all times local):

9:15 a.m.

Tennessee officials say thousands of residents and visitors in the Gatlinburg area have been evacuated and hundreds of structures have been damaged and destroyed by spreading wildfires.

In a news release Tuesday morning, authorities say three people who suffered severe burns have been transferred from a Knoxville hospital to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, which has a burn unit. A fourth person is being treated for facial burns in Knoxville.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says hundreds of firefighters as well as local and state personnel and National Guard troops have been sent in to help fight the blaze and check on people.

Officials say about 14,000 residents and visitors were evacuated from Gatlinburg alone.

According to the news release, preliminary surveys indicate that Westgate Resorts with more than 100 buildings and Ober Gatlinburg are both likely destroyed.

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8:35 a.m.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says officials in the Gatlinburg area estimate that about 100 homes have been damaged or destroyed by flames from spreading wildfires.

Emergency officials in Tennessee ordered evacuations in downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and in other areas of Sevier County near the Smoky Mountains while crews continue to battle the blaze. Officials say the wildfire has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel. TEMA says no deaths have been reported, though one person was burned while evacuating.

Officials say there are about 1,200 people sheltering at the Gatlinburg Community Center and the Rocky Top Sports Park. Several other shelters have opened to house those forced from their homes.

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8:05 a.m.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says National Guard troops are being sent in to help out as wildfires continue to spread in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

TEMA spokesman Dean Flener says the troops will transport first responders, perform welfare checks and remove debris.

Emergency officials in Tennessee ordered evacuations due to the blaze in downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and in other areas of Sevier County. Officials say the wildfire has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel. TEMA says no deaths have been reported, though one person was burned while evacuating.

Officials say there are about 1,200 people sheltering at the Gatlinburg Community Center and the Rocky Top Sports Park.

Meanwhile, officials say about 12,000 people are without power and three school systems had canceled classes Tuesday.

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4 a.m.

As storms approach some of the largest wildfires burning in the South, the rain signaled new hope for firefighters working to put them out.

But authorities said the storms were also bringing high winds, which could topple the many dead trees and branches in burning forests and pose a threat to firefighters. And experts predicted rains from one storm system wouldn’t be enough to end the relentless drought that’s spread across several states.

The storms appeared to be taking aim at the two largest wildfires in the South — the nearly 28,000-acre Rough Ridge Fire in north Georgia and the nearly 25,000-acre Rock Mountain Fire burning on both sides of the Georgia-North Carolina line.

Authorities said 22 other large wildfires were burning throughout the Southeast U.S.

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