In November 2016, residents of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains were forced to evacuate due to horrifying wildfires.
The fire destroyed over 2,400 buildings all around East Tennessee, including homes and businesses. Firefighters tirelessly worked on containing the fires, which was no easy feat. In the process, 14 lives were lost and countless others were injured.
The fires were extremely close to threatening Pigeon Forge, the hometown of country legend Dolly Parton.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken,” her statement read. “I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
She not only sent her prayers and condolences, she pledged to help the people of her home state for months to come. She started the My People Fund, which she promised would provide people with $1,000 per month for six months to anyone whose home is uninhabitable or destroyed.
Parton also planned a high-profile telethon with legendary guests to help raise money for the people of East Tennessee, which raised the staggering amount of $9 million, which is an incredible feat, but only a fraction of what officials previously determined was the total cost of damages were. The fires have resulted in over $500 million in damages across the county.
The fires were started by two teenage boys as they walked along a mountain trail and threw lit matches into the forest, located in the city of Gatlinburg. According to a report by The Tennessean, the two teenagers, aged 15 and 17, were both arrested and charged with aggravated arson after an investigation was launched following horrifying fires that swept through Eastern Tennessee and nearly destroyed the entire town of Gatlinburg.
Now, a few months later, Gatlinburg is rebuilding, but there is still so much to do. Nashville News Channel 5 released new aerial footage of the damage and it is truly heartbreaking. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Trees are barely there, buildings are hardly standing, and debris is still everywhere.
If you’d like to help the people of East Tennessee with a donation to a few different organizations, click here. The Rotary Clubs, The Gatlinburg Relief Fund, Sevier Country Fire Relief Fund, and East Tennessee Foundation: Sevier County Community Fund are all still taking donations.
Watch the footage below.