WEARS VALLEY, Tenn. (WATE) – A wildfire near Pigeon Forge has damaged at least 100 structures and forced the evacuation of hundreds of Wears Valley rental cabins. The wildfire has burned more than 3,700 acres in the Wears Valley area of Sevier County.
Pigeon Forge serves as a gateway for many to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As of Thursday roughly 11,000 homes had been evacuated, though some had been cleared to return.
Wears Valley Volunteer Fire Department ordered immediate evacuations for a 1-mile radius around Shagbark and The Preserve Resort on Wednesday night after high winds quickly spread a wildfire across the mountains in Sevier County. Those resorts are near Hatcher Mountain, where fire officials say the blaze began around noon.
Sevier County Emergency Management added Little Valley Mountain Resort and Black Bear Resort, off of Lost Branch Road, to the mandatory evacuation order late Wednesday. Residents and visitors in Wears Valley and Walden’s Creek have also been instructed to evacuate.
On Wednesday night, crews were trying to keep the fire from topping a ridge, where it would be exposed to the high winds entering the area ahead of expected severe weather.
At least two structures and multiple vehicles had been destroyed by fire, according to Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department Captain Jon Lanier. He did not identify the location of those buildings. Lanier estimates the fire burned 20 acres the first hour it was active.
First responders are preventing vehicles from entering the valley from Pigeon Forge. Access from Townsend remains open.
A shelter has been opened at the Pigeon Forge Community Center for residents and visitors in need of a place to stay while firefighters work to get the blaze under control.
Students at an elementary school in the valley were evacuated to a school in Pigeon Forge.
Sevier County Emergency Management said the official name for the fire is “Hatcher Mountain Road/Indigo Lane fire.” Insurance companies often need this official language when claims are filed.