More than a month after the Chimney Tops 2 wildfire devastated much of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains resort area, many visitors ask about the latest news. Naturally, they want to know how locals and businesses are doing and what can they do to help. Here are some issues that people ask most about the area:
1.) Most business and popular sites are intact
There’s no denying that the November 28th wildfire resulted in significant damage and loss of life. Officials estimate that the cost is at least $500 million, with 2,460 buildings destroyed, 134 people injured and 14 fatalities.
The famous Castle in Gatlinburg is gone, as is most of the Westgate Resort and Spa. But many beloved places survived, including downtown, the Space Needle, Ober Gatlinburg, the Pancake Pantry and Dollywood. Most of the damage occurred in Gatlinburg, with Pigeon Forge and Sevierville essentially spared. If you want to check if your favorite places remain and are open, please check out the Gatlinburg website.
2.) The National Park is open in most places
With much of the fire spilling into Gatlinburg, it also affected some of the more popular areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A few of the trails that would normally be open during the winter months, such as the Chimney Tops, Cove Mountain and Ramsey Cascades trails, are closed due to fire damage. Others aren’t open due to bear activity, storms and flash floods, inclement weather and/or road construction.
If your plans including spending time in the park, you will still get to see plenty other places, including Cades Cove and many other trails. The best resource to get updates on park closures is the National Park’s own page.
3.) Charity is appreciated, but volunteers are needed
The most common first response to a disaster is to help. Once people realized the enormity of the Chimney Tops 2 fire, both financial and material donations started pouring in through relief agencies. Dolly Parton’s benefit telethon on December 13th has currently raised over $9 million in contributions. Local relief organizations have also raised money, and more concerts and events are scheduled.
But locals can also use volunteer help, such as in distribution centers and helping with organizing supplies. If you would like to donate your time and effort on your visit here, please go to the Mountain Tough website and find out ways to help.
4.) Events and festivals will still go on
By the time most people will visit Gatlinburg in the spring and summer months, things will likely be back in full swing. Until then, Ober Gatlinburg will host the Tennessee Winter Special Olympics in late January. Winter Magic, the festival of holiday lights will continue until the end of February, and the Trolley Ride of Lights runs until January 31st.
Perhaps the best way you can personally contribute to the Gatlinburg community is to visit, just as you normally would, and tell others to do the same.
5.) The Cosby Entrance and its area was undamaged
This area of the park was untouched by the wildfires and thus remains as beautiful as before. This is entrance that’s closest to Christopher Place and known mostly to locals, so it doesn’t get the crowds often found in other entries. Of course , we encourage those you know to come out and visit our still-beautiful corner of eastern Tennessee.
Photo by Brandon Shea under creative commons license.