How Wildfires Happen and What’s Next

Thankfully, the fires have abated in the Gatlinburg area. White Oak Lodge and Resort was extremely fortunate to escape with some wind damage but sustained no major damage.

White Oak Lodge and Resort is up and running, and The City of Gatlinburg projects to reopen to the public Friday, December 9 at 7 a.m. Some roads may be closed for utility work, full details online.

The Making of a Disaster

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller explained what happened to cause the fires, citing a disturbing amalgam of conditions which ultimately led to disaster.

  1. It started with embers from chimney tops in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
  2. When combined with extremely low humidity, dry conditions and increasing wind speed, these embers began to start fires.
  3. When wind speeds later doubled, (some in excess of 87 miles per hour, hurricane force) embers from the fires were picked up and transported quickly, often more than a mile away at a time.
  4. The domino effect continued as winds knocked trees into live power lines which fell on very dry ground, which led to more fires.

It wasn’t until heavy, much-needed rains finally fell that exhausted firefighters caught a break and the fires came under control.

Johnson City firefighters in Gatlinburg
The now-famous viral photo of exhausted Johnson City firefighters napping after 36 straight hours of work. Originally posted to Facebook by Adam Scott Momberger

Pigeon Forge is Open for Business

Even though some of the exciting Gatlinburg holiday events we’ve talked about on this blog didn’t come to pass this year, Winterfest is still in full swing with plenty of places open in neighboring cities and towns.

Pigeon Forge and Dollywood are open for business. The theaters in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge all have fantastic holiday shows. The stores are open for shopping and the restaurants ready for dining.

We Will Rebuild!

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Warner offered words of hope and strength, promising Gatlinburg is strong and resilient and “it will be OK.”

We weren’t surprised to learn that Sevierville native and humanitarian Dolly Parton started a My People Fund to help those who lost everything. The fund will provide $1,000 each month for six months to every Sevier County family who lost their home during the wildfire.

You Can Help Just by Visiting

One of the best ways you can help Gatlinburg is to come to White Oak Lodge and Resort and support the surrounding communities with your tourism as they work to keep local families employed and assist those in need.

You can also give $10 just by texting REDCROSS to 90999, or give an amount of your choice to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

We look forward to seeing you soon at the resort! If travel plans aren’t in your immediate future, take a look through our blog for seasonal things to do (hiking through the fall colors, white water rafting, and ziplining to name a few) and pick your favorite time to visit.

Victoria Hoffman

A native of New Jersey, Victoria isn't entirely sure how she ended up in Kansas City, but has enjoyed writing, editing, creating, communicating and marketing for high-profile accounts throughout the city ever since. In her spare time, Victoria is an actor (and active) with local community and city theatre.

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