It’s now been weeks since the first spark ignited two wildfires that have torn through East Tennessee. The fires started on November 28, and have been burning ever since. In a report published on Tuesday (December 13), The Tennessean states that one of the fires is now 94% contained, while the other is 96% contained.
As firefighters continue to tirelessly work on completely containing the fires, the residents of East Tennessee have been left to assess the damages. 14 people were killed as the result of the fires, and countless others were injured. Officials have identified 13 of the 14 people killed, and have a lead on the identity of the remaining victim.
When it comes to structural damage, over 2,400 buildings have been destroyed, including homes and businesses. With so much destruction, the amount of time and funds it will take to rebuild the region is out of this world.
Now that the fires are dwindling down, officials have been able to determine the total cost of damages. As of right now, the fires have resulted in over $500 million in damages across East Tennessee.
Gatlinburg, a popular tourist town in the mountains, was one of the towns affected by the fires. Although it’s going to take a while for them to rebuild, officials have been encouraging tourists to continue visiting the town. “We’ve seen the form of the son of God all around us during this terrible time,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.
Since it’s going to take a lot of time and money to rebuild and recover from the fires, one Sevier County native is doing everything she can to help out. That person is none other than Dolly Parton, who grew up in the county and has her Dollywood theme park located there.
Parton established the My People Fund to help families who lost their homes in the fires. Her original pledge was to give each family whose whom was destroyed or uninhabitable $1000 every month for six months. But based on the amount of money her fund has raised so far, she may be able to provide even more assistance than she originally thought.
Many of Dolly’s fellow country stars have been drawing attention to her fund. Several others have signed on to help her during her Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund telethon, which will air on Tuesday night (December 13). Performers such as Chris Stapleton, Hank Williams Jr., and Kenny Rogers have committed to perform during the telethon. It airs on GAC, AXS TV, RFD, and the Heartland Network from 8-11 PM, and can also be watched on various online news networks and on Parton’s Facebook page.
Those who wish to make a donation to the My People Fund during the telethon can call 1-866-CARE MORE. If you won’t be able to watch the show, you can still make a donation by visiting Parton’s Dollywood Foundation website here.
We’ll continue to keep the people of Tennessee in our prayers as they work on rebuilding after this tragic event.