Dolly Parton: 'Heartbroken' over fires; Dollywood to reopen Friday
UPDATE 6 PM TUESDAY: Dollywood will reopen 2 p.m. Friday, the park announced Tuesday.
The park has been closed because of this week's wildfires that have devastated parts of Sevier County.
"After assessing the damage wrought by recent wildfires in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is focusing its efforts for the next two days supporting the community," a statement form the park reads.
UPDATE 11:30 AM TUESDAY: As fires threatened homes and businesses in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the area's largest theme park was spared.
"Good news and a little bit of bad news for us, " Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens said Tuesday morning.
Several of Dollywood's cabins were either damaged or destroyed by the fire, but the full extent isn't known just quite yet.
Owens said they haven't been able to reach some of the cabins further in the county.
On Monday night, Dollywood had evacuated 19 occupied cabins and evacuated guests from 50 rooms in Dollywood's DreamMore Resort.
The park itself wasn't damaged by the inferno, according to Owens. Crews made a fire line along the park to protect its structures, but the attraction did suffer some wind damage.
Dollywood plans to be closed Wednesday and Thursday, but will reopen on Friday. The park said it plans to focus on community recovery in the meantime.
In addition, the Dreammore resort is fine and plans to be open Tuesday evening for guests.
The Dollywood cabins will remain closed until they finish assessments.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared,” said Dolly Parton in a statement on her Facebook page.
Also Tuesday, Al Cecere of the American Eagle Foundation said all eagles that had been kept at a facility on the Dollywood grounds have been moved to another location in Pigeon Forge. The predators spent Monday night into Tuesday in their pens at Dollywood.
As fires threaten homes and businesses in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the area's largest theme park was watching the situation closely.
Pete Owens, spokesperson for Dollywood, says that so far, no structures inside the park have been damaged. They have fire crews in the park, standing by if needed to protect the buildings.
Owens says the fire has reached the Upper Middle Ccreek ridge near the park, and they have evacuated 19 occupied cabins in the park's cabin resort area. In addition, they have evacuated guests from 50 rooms in Dollywood's DreamMore Resort.
Not far away from Dollywood, some 50 to 60 birds were moved out Monday night from the American Eagle Foundation.
According to Julia Cecere of the foundation, AEF staff members began conducting "an emergency bird evacuation" about 8 p.m. They were taken to staff members' homes.
It's something "we have never had to do before," according to an email from Cecere.
"It wasn't graceful, but we did our best to retrieve every bird and then load about 40-50 pounds of raptor food along with. These birds are now resting safely in individual kennels at several AEF staff member homes 10+ miles away from the fires," she wrote.
Foundation President Al Cecere also went to check on the birds at the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood. Because of the smoke, limited access to the site and the topography, the eagles could not be removed Monday night, according to Julia Cecere.
Here's a link to a live webcam of the sanctuary at Dollywood.
"As of now they are safe and hanging out in their aviaries, albeit the air quality is not optimal. Eagle Mountain Sanctuary houses one of the largest collections of non-releasable Bald Eagles in the world. Firetrucks and first responders are protecting Dollywood and we hope to receive reports in the morning from Dollywood security as to whether it's safe to come evacuate them.
"We are hoping and praying for rain to come save our sweet home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains."
The foundation also is asking for help with carriers once it's time to move the eagles.
"If anyone in Sevierville/Kodak/Knoxville has Large to XL plastic dog kennels/carriers and would like to donate or loan them to the AEF please text 865-654-4223 or 865-256-0372. We would be willing to set a drop-off point in Sevierville, where as of now, is safe from harm. We need these as soon as possible, just in case a second evacuation in the morning in necessary."