State of emergency declared in Tennessee resort town wildfire

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 9:23am

Tennessee authorities declared a state of emergency and sent in the National Guard on Monday in an effort to control a fast-moving wildfire near the resort town of Pigeon Forge.

The fire started about 5 p.m. Sunday and quickly spread, charring more than 30 cabins and turning propane tanks into shrapnel. About 20 fire departments have been fighting the fire, authorities said.

"Propane tanks have been exploding," Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said Sunday. "It's been real dangerous."

Now at 230 acres, the blaze started as a house fire, according to Watson.

"It looks like somebody just went through there and just dropped a bomb on the place," Shannon McCostlin told affiliate WATE-TV. "I feel bad for them people."

The area is home to rental cabins with some permanent residences.

National Guard helicopters were flying to the scene Monday morning and will drop water from a nearby lake onto the fire, said Perrin Anderson, a spokesman for Sevier County.

The help is badly needed, Watson said Sunday.

"You gotta understand, it jumped across a road, several roads, and now it's racing up a hill," he told CNN affiliate WBIR-TV.

The fire has been partially contained, said Dean Flener, a spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

About 150 people were evacuated Sunday and the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Pigeon Forge Community Center.

Pigeon Forge, in eastern Tennessee, is best known for singer Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, which was not affected by the fire.

Positioned on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, the area also is popular with outdoors enthusiasts and has a wide variety of other attractions, including music theaters, outlet malls, go-kart tracks and mini-golf courses

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