[Environment] DISASTERS: FIRE : ENVIRONMENT: GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE : UNITED STATES: CITIES: GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE: Tennessee Wildfires Spread Quickly, Leaving Little Time for Escape

 

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DISASTERS: FIRE :

ENVIRONMENT: GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE :

UNITED STATES: CITIES: GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE:

Tennessee Wildfires Spread Quickly, Leaving Little Time for Escape

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Tennessee Wildfires Spread Quickly, Leaving Little Time for Escape

Adam Beam, Kristin M. Hall

December 3, 2016

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/
la-na-tennessee-wildfires-20161203-story.html

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A shorter URL for the above link:

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http://tinyurl.com/zrnfxso

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That wildfire had ignited five days earlier on a steep, rugged peak known as Chimney Tops, about 4 miles from Gatlinburg. In less than 24 hours, aided by 87 mph winds and months of suffocating drought, the blaze would spread, forging a path to this tourist mecca. In all, 13 people were killed, about 85 were injured and nearly 1,000 homes and businesses were charred or destroyed.

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The flames came with little warning.

At 5 p.m., there were no fires in Gatlinburg. Within an hour, 20 buildings were ablaze.

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Over the next few hours, the fires transformed a city busily preparing for holiday festivities in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains into the scene of a grim, building-by-building search for the missing and the dead. Rain fell by midweek, dousing much of the fire but leaving hollow-eyed city officials, firefighters and police officers working around the clock. Many had to put news of their own gutted homes from their minds.

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Tracey and her husband  also named Tracy  packed their 2007 Ford Escape with valuables. They stopped when a tree fell on their house and sparks from a downed power line showered their yard. It was time to go.

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They did not get far. Traffic was snarled on the parkway heading out of town. Tracy, sitting anxiously behind the wheel, watched as the wind blew a fireball into the Alamo Steakhouse just a few feet from his window. He gunned the engine and swerved into the middle turn lane, the speedometer racing toward 90.

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“I wasn’t stopping for nothing or nobody,” he said.

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Across the city, firefighters were locked in a hopeless battle. The wind was scattering chunks of flame across a thirsty landscape and knocking trees into power lines, creating new fires.

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At 6 p.m., authorities shifted their focus from stopping the fire to evacuating the city. More than 700 people fled the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa. At the Lodge at Buckberry Creek, a chef and an event planner evacuated more than a dozen people before the flames destroyed the property.

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At a hospital, 57-year-old Mark Howard was recovering from pneumonia when a neighbor called to tell him his house was on fire. He dialed 911 from his hospital bed.

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The operator said, “‘Are you kidding me? You’re calling us?” Howard said. “I said, ‘Yeah, is there another number I should call?'”

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The fire had been burning for several days, mostly in the unreachable peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park not far from the edge of one of the most popular hiking trails. The fire was so small and so remote that for days firefighters could not get to it. Instead they came up with a plan to contain it. But beginning Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning, the moisture vanished from the air, the temperature rose and the wind began galloping through the trees.

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By Monday afternoon, “there was no stopping the fire,” said Clayton Jordan, deputy superintendent for the park.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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Sincerely,
David Dillard
Temple University
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