GATLINBURG, T.N. (AP) — The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says National Guard troops are being sent in to help out as wildfires continue to spread in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
TEMA spokesman Dean Flener says the troops will transport first responders, perform welfare checks and remove debris.
Emergency officials in Tennessee ordered evacuations due to the blaze in downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and in other areas of Sevier County.
Officials say the wildfire has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel. A Tennessee mayor confirmed 3 deaths in the wildfires.
Officials say there are about 1,200 people sheltering at the Gatlinburg Community Center and the Rocky Top Sports Park.
Meanwhile, officials say about 12,000 people are without power and three school systems had canceled classes Tuesday. The fire forced workers at an aquarium to evacuate, but more than 10,000 animals are still in the building.
Ryan DeSears, general manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, tells WBIR-TV that the building was still standing and all workers evacuated last night.
He says the animals should be safe as long as the building has power and doesn’t catch fire.