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March 31: Wears Valley fire roughly 45% contained, 800-acre fire in Seymour 0% contained as crews battle both overnight

Crews worked through the night on both fires to contain them and battle hotspots. Sevier County EMA said airdrops resumed Friday morning.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — ***Editor's Note: This article contains wildfire updates specifically for Thursday, March 31. For the latest updates, please head to our front page.*** 

Sevier County issued more evacuations Thursday afternoon as crews work to battle and contain two fires in Wears Valley and Seymour.

The Hatcher Mountain fire that swept across Wears Valley is about 45% contained and spans roughly 3,700 acres, the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency said.

Sevier County said crews are also fighting a wildfire in Seymour in the area of Millstone Gap Road and Cold Springs Hollow Road near the Blount-Sevier County line. According to the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the fire has grown to approximately 800 acres and is 0% contained.

Crews worked through the night on both fires to contain them and battle hotspots. Sevier County EMA said airdrops resumed Friday morning.

Some 11,000 homes were evacuated starting Wednesday afternoon, Sevier County Larry Waters said. Also, some 100-plus structures have been "affected," the mayor said, including many that were completely destroyed. Many homes and cabins were in the path of the fire.

"I think the worst is over but there’s a risk that’s still there," the mayor said Thursday afternoon.

The cause of the Wears Valley fire was unknown Thursday.

Spanish Version: Incendio forestal en Wears Valley casi 45% contenido, incendio de 800 acres en Seymour 0% contenido


New evacuations were issued Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for addresses off of Dripping Springs Road, including Dykes Road, West Lewelling, Reagan Circle, and Lela Way. At 4:45 p.m., evacuations were issued for Smoky Ridge Way off Wears Valley Road due to increased fire conditions. 

The evacuation area extends many miles around the fires. The county created a dynamic evacuation map that lets people type in an address to see if they are in the evacuation area. If you are unsure if you need to evacuate, you are advised to do so out of caution.

Shelters have been established at the following locations to help anyone displaced by the fires:

  • The Pigeon Forge Community Center at 170 Community Center Drive
  • Seymour Heights Christian Church at 122 Boyds Creek Highway

According to TEMA on Thursday, the Red Cross reported sheltering 120 people at the wildfire evacuee shelter located at the Pigeon Forge Community Center and assisting more than 500 evacuees through the center since Wednesday night.

On Friday morning, city officials said the Sevierville Convention Center at 202 Gists Creek Road was no longer available as a shelter.

How To Help

TEMA launched a Sevier County Wildfire recovery webpage to provide information on state and local resources available to help wildfire survivors. 

Below you can also find a link to agencies collecting donations for crews and people affected by the fires.

How to help those affected by the Wears Valley wildfire

Damage and Injuries

Several properties in the path of the fires have been lost, with at least 100 structures "affected" by the fires. The true extent of property damage from the fires will not be known until the fires are out and people can safely conduct damage assessments.  

Just one civilian has suffered injuries so far. He was a contractor working excavation on a home near the fire. On Thursday, his wife identified him as Bradley Slone Jr. She said, "he's struggling with pain and swollen very bad." 

Two firefighters were also treated at the scene while fighting the blaze. No deaths have been reported.

Overnight Wednesday into Thursday, crews responding to the fires had to deal with incredibly strong winds whipping up flames and flinging debris. Tom Lucas shared an intense video of what he and others were seeing first-hand.

Five government vehicles burned or were damaged in the blaze, Waters said.

This is the second time Waters and other Sevier County leaders have gone through a fire disaster.

Sevier County EMA said property damage assessments will begin soon but requested people stop calling 911 to get property damage information. It said residents and visitors needing general information (not insurance company calls) can call 865-774-3899. The call center will close at 9 p.m. and reopen at 8 a.m. Friday. The EMA said to reserve 911 for emergencies only.

Other Information

As of 10:20 a.m. on Friday, Sevier County officials reported Wears Valley Road remains closed between Valley View and Waldens Creek until further notice.

Due to the lingering effects of the evacuations, Sevier County Schools will remain closed on Friday. Students will return to class after spring break on Monday, April 11.

"Deja vu all over again"

In November 2016, an inferno swept into Gatlinburg from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, damaging or destroying more than 2,400 structures and resulting in 14 deaths. 

While this week's fire hasn't been as destructive, it still causes a shudder, authorities said.

"Deja vu all over again," Waters observed.

The mayor told reporters Thursday that prayer has helped.

"Thank you for the thousands of people that prayed for Sevier County during this event," Waters said. "I think that all of us felt those prayers, and we appreciate that. The fact that there are not reports of fatalities or missing people at this time, I think, is answered prayers."

The mayor praised the more than 70 agencies and 200 people from across the region and state that responded to Sevier County starting Wednesday afternoon.

The fire poses less of a threat now than it did earlier, Waters said. Overnight rains helped somewhat, fire officials said.

"We do have firefighters on the ground working as we speak to contain more of this fire," Waters said.

Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said more hours of work would be needed before he could declare it "contained."

"Until we've got a box around it we’re not going to call it contained," Watson said.

Said the mayor: "I know folks want to go home."

Waters said flames from the Wears Valley fire came close to the city limits of Pigeon Forge but did not quite reach it, to the relief of many involved. He credits fire crews with preventing the sweeping fire from getting closer to the city.

Suppression efforts are ongoing for the blaze that's now more than 24 hours old.

At the state's request, the Tennessee National Guard was providing six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to aid in firefighting.

Two Blackhawks left McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Air Base about 8 a.m. heading for the burning Sevier County hills. They carried "Bambi" buckets to load and dump water.

"Each aircraft will make multiple trips," according to a bulletin from National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Darrin Haas. "The Blackhawks will pick up water from nearby water sources and transport it directly to the needed area. Two more Blackhawks crews are scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. and two more crews at noon.

The Wears Valley fire broke out about 11 a.m. in the Indigo Lane neighborhood off Hatcher Mountain Road in Wears Valley.

Residents told WBIR they noticed smoke that appeared to resemble a chimney fire in the area. Fueled by dry conditions on the ground, the blaze spread rapidly among homes and cabins on the thickly wooded hillsides up above Wears Valley Road.

Authorities began issuing evacuation notices that steadily grew in geographic area as the hours ticked by. The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency ordered people in the Wears Valley and Walden's Creek areas to get it.

It also created a dynamic map people can access and type their address into at this link, to help residents see where they were in relation to the evacuation area.

By 1 a.m. Thursday, the fire evacuation circle had been extended for the Dupont Area from South Rogers Road to the Blount County Line of Sevier County.

"If you are unsure if you are in this area, you should evacuate," the EMA said.

Crews from throughout the region offered assistance including the Knoxville Fire Department, which sent six engine companies from Wednesday through early Thursday to help. KFD also said they will help rotate members to allow firefighters time to rest. 

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