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Fri, 09 Dec 2016
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Dolly Parton plans to donate $1,000 per month to families affected by Tennessee wildfires, as number of injured and dead rises

© Brian Blanco/Getty Images / AFP
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The death toll from wildfires that ravaged the eastern Tennessee communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge has risen to 10. Country music star Dolly Parton is leading an effort to help the area ‒ her birthplace and home of her Dollywood resort.

The blaze, which began in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spread rapidly into Gatlinburg on Monday, burned 15,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 700 buildings - about 300 in Gatlinburg alone - according to Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.

Initially, four people were believed to have perished in the flames, until the authorities discovered three more bodies at a burned-out residence on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, three more deaths were counted, bringing the total to 10, WBIR reported.


Air and ground footage of deadly Tennessee wildfire

© Tennessee Highway Patrol / Reuters
Firefighters stand by a destroyed home after a wildfire forced the mandatory evacuation of Gatlinburg, Tennessee in a picture released November 30, 2016.
As enormous wildfires continue to rage across the southeast United States, alarming footage of the latest eruption in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was caught from both the ground and air.

Ten people have died from the fires that moved eastward from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park towards homes in eastern Tennessee, WBIR reported Thursday. That is up from a previous death toll of seven. More than 50 people were injured, and over 700 buildings were burned beyond repair in Sevier County.

Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Monday night after a wildfire erupted on Chimney Tops mountain and spread into the nearby towns - resulting in the death of seven people.


Apocalyptic scenes following devastating wildfires in Tennessee (PHOTOS & VIDEOS)

© ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock
Officials estimate that more than 100 structures have been destroyed or damaged from the blaze. Above multiple burned business and vehicles along Cherokee Orchard Road in Gatlinburg.
Devastating Tennessee wildfires in two resort towns have left at least three people dead after the blazes fueled by high-speed winds ripped through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge destroying more than 100 homes, hotels and businesses, and leaving the areas resembling an 'apocalypse'.

Aerial pictures reveal the true scale of the devastation after homes were reduced to smoldering piles of rubble by the blaze.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said at an afternoon news conference on Tuesday that authorities found at least three people dead.

'We do not have further information on them at this time,' Waters said. 'We are continuing to notify next of kin.'

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller told reporters it's unclear if there are more people who died in the raging wildfires, as they 'have not been able to get into all the areas.'

'This is one for the history books,' Miller said at a morning news conference. 'The likes of this has never been seen. But the worst is definitely over with.'

Comment: The unprecedented fire began when embers from a wildfire on nearby Chimney Tops Trail in the national park blew into Gatlinburg about 6 p.m. Monday as the heavy winds doubled in speed, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller. Although arson suspects have been arrested in connection with separate fires this fall, it was not immediately clear what initially sparked this fire.

Cassius Cash, the park's superintendent, said the Chimney Tops fire burned about 50 acres on Sunday. By Tuesday evening, the National Park Service said the wildfire spanned more than 15,000 acres in the park and the Gatlinburg area.

"In my 25 years of federal (park) service, I've participated in many fires, but none of that could have prepared me for this," Cash said.

Study: Wildfire seasons are more destructive and lasting longer almost everywhere on Earth


Wildfire in Tennessee threatening homes and businesses, residents forced to evacuate

© @thepooh912 / Twitter
A roaring 500-acre fire is threatening structures in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where officials have ordered mandatory evacuations. Roads near Great Smoky Mountains National Park are closed, as firefighters battle the flames and gusty winds.

There have been no fatalities so far, but three burn victims are in critical condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, the Tennessean reported.

More than 100 structures have been destroyed by the massive fire, including the home of Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

"It's very dangerous weather conditions," Dana Soehn with the National Park Service told WATE. "We've had trees coming down, limbs coming down and the fire is continuing to grow."

Comment: So far the dangerous wildfires have led to the following:
  • More than 14,000 people have been forced to evacuate from resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
  • Roughly 400 homes and structures were damaged
  • Four people suffered severe burns trying to evacuate and are hospitalized
  • Westgate Resorts, a 16-story hotel and every cabin at Black Bear Falls is believed to have been destroyed
  • Schools in Green, McMinn and Sevier counties will are closed, and more than 12,000 people in Sevier County were without power as of early Tuesday morning
  • Dollywood was evacuated and tourists fled the area as wildfires ripped through Eastern Tennessee Monday
There are a number of images of the destruction available here.

Update: 3 people have been confirmed killed by the wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee


Wildfires in Israel force over 80,000 people to evacuate Haifa, Netanyahu blames 'arsonist terrorism'

© Baz Ratner / Reuters
Firefighters work as a wildfire burns in the northern city of Haifa, Israel November 24, 2016.
Tens of thousands of people were told to immediately evacuate Israel's third largest city, Haifa, as wildfires encouraged by extreme wind rage through the country for the third day.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed "arsonist terrorism" for the blaze.

More than 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes and rush from Haifa while authorities struggle to bring the fire under control. It has been spreading especially quickly due to dry weather and strong winds.


Wildfires Rage Across Southern US, Scorching More Than 100,000 Acres

Southern US wildfires seen from space
Uncontrolled wildfires are raging through the drought-stricken South, blanketing multiple states in haze as firefighters race to temper the flames.

If you're not on the front lines, it may be hard to visualize just how bad these wildfires have gotten. To give you an idea of their size and scope, here's a handy guide:
  • Wildfires are burning in six states: North Carolina, which is the hardest hit, plus Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
  • All told, there are more than 30 large fires that are still uncontained. Overall, 128,000 acres have gone up in flames — a land mass that's about nine times the size of Manhattan, more than four times the size of San Francisco... or the size of nearly 96,970 football fields.
  • While that's a lot, there have certainly been much larger wildfires in past years. In August 2015, the Okanogan Complex Fire in Washington burned over 256,560 acres, making it the largest wildfire in Washington state history.
  • More than 5,000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the flames. The firefighters have come in from all parts of the country to assist and authorities are using 24 helicopters to drop flame retardant on the fires.

Comment: Winter drought forecast for much of United States


Wannabe weatherman seeking Facebook views arrested for starting wildfire

Johnny Mullins arrested and charged with second degree arson.
A wannabe weatherman was jailed for arson after admitting he started a wildfire to draw attention to his selfie videos on Facebook, his town's police chief said Friday. Meanwhile, a Georgia sheriff appealed for help identifying the driver of a dark blue SUV last seen where other wildfires began. And in North Carolina, authorities suspect arson in more than 20 wildfires burning in a national forest.

"It's really too bad because he's not a bad kid — he's just misguided," said James Stephens, the police chief in Jenkins, Kentucky, where Johnny Mullins, 21, was arrested this week on a second-degree arson charge.

"He likes to do Facebook videos and have people follow him on his 'weather forecast,' so that's pretty much why he did what he did," the chief said. "He enjoyed the attention he got from the Facebook stuff."

Comment: Typical of a narcissistic society with an unhealthy obsession with social media status.

"He didn't realize how much danger he was putting other people in," Stephens added.

A teenager in Harlan County, Kentucky also was arrested for arson this week, and in Tennessee, authorities said Friday that Andrew Scott Lewis was charged with setting fires and vandalism causing more than $250,000 in damage and threatening homes outside Chattanooga.

No arrests were announced in most of the rest of the suspicious fires, which have been torching forests in and around the southern Appalachian mountains. The relentless drought across much of the South has removed the usual humidity and sucked wells and streams dry, making the woods ripe for fire.

Comment: Dozens of wildfires spread across North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia


Dozens of wildfires spread across North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia

© Charlotte Stories
As the drought continues to linger in the South East, wildfires are now spreading throughout the Blue Ridge mountains, and now into the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Evacuations have even begun to take place around Lake Lure, which is about an hour and a half west of Charlotte.

Emergency personnel are now going door-to-door to evacuate residents in Rutherford County.

Dozens of parks, including the South Mountains State Park are now closed due to the fires.

North Carolina firefighters are now expecting wind gusts of over 20mph today to push the fires even further.

Burn bans enacted until further notice in these counties:

Comment: There are reports of extensive fires in Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia as well as North Carolina. According to NASA, more than 30 have ignited since a wildfire began 6 days ago in Maple Springs, North Carolina. The agency's satellite image shows just how far the wildfires have spread across the southeast:

From the NOAA:


October a record month for wildfires in Georgia

© Channel 2 Action News
Firefighters are at work in DeKalb County.
DeKalb County firefighters were battling a blaze Friday afternoon near the First Baptist Church in Lithonia, Channel 2 Action News reported. The scene is on Hillandale Drive near I-20. The blaze was reported under control about 5:30 p.m.

Also, crews in Forsyth County were battling a 1-acre fire on Greenwood Acres near Cumming, Channel 2 reported. That blaze was threatening three homes in a neighborhood.

There were 64 new fires reported statewide since Thursday, Georgia Forestry Commission spokeswoman Wendy Burnett said.

In all, October wildfire activity in the state was more than 200 times the five-year average for the month, the GFC said in a Facebook post.

"We are stretched with fires breaking out all over," Burnett said, "but our folks are some of the most dedicated and professional that you could hope to meet. So we are confident when we say, 'We've got this.'"

Burnett said the GFC has been able to move some firefighters from areas with lower activity to some of the "hot spots." And the agency has gotten help from local fire departments and other agencies.

Gwinnett County fire spokesman Tommy Rutledge said the GFC has helped his agency cut firebreaks around the perimeter of burn areas as needed.


More than 100,000 acres destroyed in Alabama by 900-plus wildfires since October 1

Officials say more than 900 wildfires have destroyed over 100,000 acres across the state this month amid an ongoing drought that has no signs of ending anytime soon.

Interim State Forester Gary Cole said in a statement Monday that extremely dry conditions have created favorable environments for wildfires during the past several weeks.

"The drought creates a dangerous scenario where wildfire can quickly spread out of control, destroying forestland and threatening homes," Cole said.

Gov. Robert Bentley on Oct. 12 signed a drought emergency declaration, putting 46 counties under the no burn order.

Cole says that order will remain in effect until weather conditions have significantly improved. Citing a 10-day forecast of low potential for rainfall, Cole says there is "no relief in sight."

Violators of the burn ban could face a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail if convicted.

Source: Associated Press