WILDFIRES BURN IN EASTERN TENNESSEE
By WVUA 23 Web Writer Jennifer Leto
As wildfires continue to burn in eastern Tennessee, the death toll is rising. Scorched by raging fires, authorities are getting a better picture of the damage, left by a blaze they believe was “human caused.”
Three more bodies were found today in Sevier County, bringing the number of people killed to seven. And many say their family members are still missing.
“I’ve called the other shelters here, they said she isn’t there…just hoping for a miracle,” said Michael Reed, whose wife and daughters are still missing in the fires.
More than 700 buildings have been destroyed or damaged, 300 of those in the popular vacation town of Gatlinburg, according to officials.
Thousands have been evacuated from the area since Monday when the fires quickly spread from the Great Smoky Mountains, fueled by high winds.
“Those high winds were knocking down trees. Those trees were hitting power lines. And they were falling on this very dry, extreme drought like condition and everything was catching on fire,” said Greg Miller, Gatlinburg fire chief.
However, the weather took a turn for the better Wednesday, bringing rain, and possibly, some hope.
The rain allowed search and rescue crews to go house by house, looking for those who may still be trapped.
“We still do have some active fires going on, but certainly the rain has been assisting that effort, and we thank the big guy up above for that rain…. We have rescued three people who were trapped…so that is some good positive news for a change,” said Larry Waters, Sevier County mayor.