Tennessee Mayor: Death Toll Rises To 7 After More Bodies Recovered Following Wildfires
GATLINBURG, Tennessee - The Latest on wildfires in Tennessee that killed seven people and destroyed more than 150 buildings (all times local):
The mayor of Gatlinburg says officials are discussing re-opening the city later this week after wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said Wednesday that the resort mountain city may re-open Friday so business owners can assess the damage and hopefully begin paying their employees again.
He says the evacuation orders must remain in place until then because there are still areas that haven't been searched and places where power lines are down.
The wildfires killed seven people and injured dozens more.
A Tennessee mayor is confirming another fatality in the wildfires that swept through the Great Smoky Mountains, raising the death toll to four.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also said Wednesday that nearly four dozen people had been injured in the fires.
The wildfires destroyed more than 150 buildings. Heavy rain fell early Wednesday, which is helping put out some of the wildfires, but officials say more than 200 firefighters are still out battling flames and hotspots.
Rain is moving through a Tennessee tourism region ravaged by wildfires, but officials say there are still active fires in the area.
Tod Hyslop, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Morristown, Tennessee, says the Gatlinburg area got about ¾ of an inch to 1 inch of rain overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.
He says rain will pick up midday Wednesday through the afternoon and taper off about 4 or 5 p.m. The system is moving slowly, which increases the chances of more rain.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener said any rain will help, but the fires are still an "ongoing situation."
A Tennessee tourist mecca is emerging from the smoke, charred and vacant.
During wildfires Monday night, many buildings in Gatlinburg were burned to their foundation. Hotel fire alarms eerily echoed through empty streets lined with burned out cars Tuesday evening.
Three people were killed. The fire destroyed at least 150 buildings, including iconic homes and a resort. Other buildings and attractions remained largely intact, including the Dollywood amusement park in nearby Pigeon Forge.
Wildfires have been burning for several weeks across the drought-stricken South. But Monday marked the first time homes and businesses were destroyed on a large scale.
Gatlinburg, a city that opens up to 11 million visitors annually, is facing a new reality. But Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his home, says his town will pull together and recover.