Recovering from the Gatlinburg Fires of 2016
Our home has experienced a truly impacting wildfire, and we are beginning to start the recovery process. Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will re-open and begin welcoming visitors again on December 9th. This is great news! The very best way to move forward is to welcome guests and show them our unique city. The area is still beautiful, and the mountain views are unchanged.
What Was the Fire’s Impact on Gatlinburg?
The impact has been pretty severe. This fire was one of the deadliness fires in the eastern US since 1947. Over 2,400 structures burned, including the Mayor’s property. This fire has been a disaster, and many lives have been altered. Sadly, 14 people lost their lives during the fire.
The fires began on November 28th in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and through a shocking set of circumstances, it spread into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge very rapidly. Hurricane force wind gusts knocked down trees and power lines, which started new fires and fanned the flames on old ones. The landscape, parched from one of the worst droughts in a century, proved to be kindling for these quick moving fires.
It took ten long days for firefighting crews from all over the South to wrestle the flames under control. Early estimates put the damages at over $500 million.
And Gatlinburg isn’t the only area affected, either. This year wildfires have burned all over the Southeast in areas that are not normally prone to forest fires. We’re continuing to hope that more of the forecasted rain comes to our mountains so that we can begin to relax and rebuild.
In the days since the fires died down we have been given permission to return to the area, so we have been extremely busy. We immediately checked on all the properties that we manage and gave owners extensive information and photos of the status of their individual cabins.
Many other cabin owners have been contacting us, and we have been checking on cabins that are managed by other companies. We’ve been happy to do this and help worried owners in this “all hands on deck” recovery process. It is such a benefit for cabin owners to have someone they trust to continuously monitor their property and provide timely updates. We’ve been happy to help out.
If you are a property owner with another management company but have been struggling to get information about your cabin, please reach out to us. We will be happy to assist you and check on your cabin for you. It is always important in a time of crisis for everyone to come together to provide comfort and support, and we’d like to support anyone in the community that needs help.
Unfortunately, many cabin owners did lose their homes to the fire, and many cabins have been damaged.
Our first priority after the fires involved checking each property and providing a full report to each owner. After completing this task, we have been working ceaselessly on the properties. We have been clearing downed trees, cleaning the cabins, and clearing the roads to make sure future guests have easy access and can enjoy their vacation.
If you have a near-term reservation and are concerned about your stay, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to give you an updated report on the area and the recovery.
The community has been pulling together, and the recovery is moving along at a rapid pace. We are determined to once again welcome guests and show them our beautiful town and park. Restaurants, resorts, and attractions are re-opening. While no one would wish a tragic fire like this to happen, it has been truly amazing and heartwarming to see the community come together and support each other.
We have been incredibly grateful to receive the support from locals, the region, and the nation. Gatlinburg is a special area, and we are proud to call it home. Tennessee is known as the “Volunteer State,” and the community has been proving that this motto endures!
On December 2nd, just a few days after the fire, a telethon was held to raise money for victims and to support the rebuilding effort. Celebrities, including Kenny Chesney and Dolly Parton, participated in this marvelous live event. Dolly Parton, the owner of “Dollywood” and a well known local, is also planning a December 13th telethon to raise additional money to support the victims.
Also on December 2nd, most area schools reopened and began holding classes again. It’s important to immediately start the process of getting back to normal, especially for the affected families.
Teams from Atlanta and Colorado have traveled to Great Smoky Mountains National Park have gathered to assist in surveying the damage to the Park and to help begin the rebuilding process.
The December 2nd Christmas Parade, scheduled to take place in downtown Gatlinburg, has been canceled as the community surveys damage. The downtown area is intact, which is great news, but the parade for this year will not go on. We look forward to next year’s Christmas Parade. We know that by next year the community will have bounced back and we will be able to celebrate our beautiful hometown once again.
Pigeon Forge was partially evacuated for one night only. This area immediately reopened for business. Visitors and locals alike have been very grateful for the quick return to normal in the Pigeon Forge area. Restaurants, stores, and service providers are open and ready to serve. Pigeon Forge has become a donation center, and many donations that are pouring into the area to support victims and assist in the rebuilding process are being staged here. A distribution center has been set up, and any displaced local resident can come to receive aid.
For those in need of entertainment to take their minds off this tragedy, Winterfest, with shows at local theaters in Pigeon Forge, continues. This is an excellent way for visitors and locals alike to take a break and remember all the great attractions and entertainment options that our area provides.
Sevier County Humane Society set up an emergency shelter at the Sevier County Fairground to care for animals displaced by the fires. Every member of the family is important, and it is heartwarming to see man’s best friend being taken care of.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
While the park is scheduled to re-open December 9th, the popular Cade’s Cove entrance reopened December 2nd. The Cade’s Cove Visitor Center, located in North Carolina, as well as the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina, have also reopened.
How You Can Help
If you want to help the area recover, the best way is to send a cash donation to the charity of your choice. Many enjoy sending canned goods and clothes; however, these bulky, heavy items are hard to store and efficiently distribute. Cash donations will enable your favorite charity to evaluate needs and give direct relief in the most economical and efficient way possible.
Even though the flames are now extinguished, we will be feeling the effects of this deadly fire for a while. We are committed to continuing to come together as a community. If anyone has concerns about their property or an upcoming reservation, please contact us, and we will be happy to help. We have been truly heartened by the initial outpouring of support. We know that the area is strong and will come back even stronger and even prouder of this wonderful area we call home.
If you have are thinking of visiting the area and have questions, feel free to contact us at Pioneer Vacation Rentals for more information. If you are a property owner and have not yet been given information about the condition of your property and would like for us to go check on your property for you, please feel free to contact our office. We will do all we can to assist you in any way possible. Working together, helping each other, and communicating is what will get us all through this as quickly as possible and get everyone’s lives back to normal.
One Year After the Fire Update
Has Gatlinburg Recovered from the Fires of 2016?
Gatlinburg has made an incredible recovery from the devastating fires of 2016. Now, just one year after the damage occurred, many visitors can’t even tell there was a fire. Most properties have been rebuilt, and all of the main attractions in town are open for business. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fully open, and the mountain views, beautiful green forests, and tranquil waterfalls are all ready for your visit.
It’s now been over a year since the fire tore through Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains. After the fire, two teenagers were charged with arson for starting the fire in the Chimney Tops area of the Park, but they were eventually released due to the incredible set of circumstances that came together to make it such a tragic event. Tourists have returned to Gatlinburg, and property owners have rebuilt their homes, cabins, and businesses. Of course, the mountain views are still beautiful, and all the things that make this area so perfect to us are still here.
Unfortunately, some of the national media attention made visitors believe that Gatlinburg had burned to the ground. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The attractions along the Parkway received only smoke damage for the most part. Two weeks after the fire, Gatlinburg was once again welcoming visitors from all over the world to our peaceful mountain spot.
In the end, losses are estimated to be over $1 billion. Aid to the area has come from many sources, for which we are very grateful. The Small Business Administration has helped local business with low-interest loans. Local celebrities like Dolly Parton have raised millions for local rebuilding efforts and to help families who have been affected. Federal and state lawmakers have included budget items this year to help Sevier County rebuild and get the area back to prime condition.
Inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearly 11,000 acres burned during the fires of 2016. While the number seems significant, the park has over 500,000 acres within its boundaries, and only a small percentage of the 11,000 burned acres was severe. Even though those scars on the landscape are there, the mountains are still here, and the forests are still beautiful. Within six months the Park had nearly every single trail back open.
Looking forward, we are more optimistic than ever about the Gatlinburg area. The community came together in a time of need and had come back better than ever.