Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is promising to reopen its doors as soon as downtown Gatlinburg is ready.
“If the city is back open on Wednesday, I will be the first one with my doors open," General Manager Ryan DeSear said.
The building housing Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies was not damaged in the fire.
“Our attractions are in great shape. The Ripley’s area is beautiful. Our animals are in great shape. The sooner we open, the better. It will give people a sense of normality and purpose," DeSear said.
Employees with Ripley’s continued Sunday to track down and rescue pets and animals. They focused on Greystone Heights Road Sunday which runs behind the aquarium.
DeSear shared some of their experiences through Facebook Live and said the teams visited around 40 places on Saturday helping out animals including a pit bull, rabbits, kittens and cats. By Sunday, DeSear believed they had covered 100 locations.
Residents can submit their address on the aquarium's Facebook page to have the team check on pets.
"We are out locating pets. It’s a Ripley’s animal rescue truck. If we see anything wild animals, they’ll administer any aid that they can," DeSear said.
The team is rescuing stranded animals and giving immediate care, if necessary. The team isn't taking the animals unless they are in immediate danger.
Ripley's is also working to feed firefighters and emergency responders with hot meals. They come in waves of 20-30 people at a time. Many are out-of-state firefighters
"We’re trying to help in anyway we can. They have access to the city of Gatlinburg to be able to help," DeSear explained.
Ripley's also organized a small, grass-roots effort called "Operation Ripley Rescue."
DeSear explained his team finds out what people need and they get it for them.
Ripley's started "Operation Ripley Rescue" for their 29 employees who don’t have homes. They are currently helping others who reach out.
Ripley's also started taking phone calls for anyone who has questions about downtown Gatlinburg. Number to call: 1-888-240-1358
"We just need people’s hopes and prayers. It really does matter. When you’re exhausted you draw strength from that."
While DeSear said the facility isn't in need of any donations, but instead would like everyone to keep sending in their prayers, letters of support, and Christmas cards.
Once the aquarium reopens, they plan to build a display of all the letters and cards they've received from all across the country. Cards can be mailed to 88 River Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.