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Tennessee fire destroys 65 structures

State of emergency declared

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 10:50 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — A late winter forest fire that broke out Sunday near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was still raging northwest of the Tennessee park Monday, damaging or destroying 65 structures, most of them rental cabins.

“We’re still working the fire,” Perrin Anderson, an information officer for Sevier County, Tenn., told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.  He said the fire was contained, but not yet controlled.

The normal forest fire season in eastern Tennessee is spring and summer, when dry conditions are most prevalent, Anderson said.  But even in late winter, he said, there is some undergrowth and forest debris that can burn if ignited.

Fire officials believe the fire started in a cabin Sunday afternoon, but the cause has not been determined, he said.

The fire began outside the town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., population 6,000, in a forested area northwest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Anderson said. The rental cabins that burned are in forested resort areas, where an undetermined number of private homes also were damaged by the blaze.

About 150 people were voluntarily evacuated late Sunday, with no injuries reported. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state of emergency Monday morning to make resources available to fight the 145-acre blaze, the Associated Press said.

Strong winds were hampering firefighters on Monday, Anderson said. Two Black Hawk helicopters from the Tennessee Air National Guard were dumping water on the fire. About 100 firefighters from 30 departments have fought the blaze.

Local officials said they hoped that rain predicted for Monday afternoon would help control the fire.

The area is visited by 10 million to 12 million people a year, most of them bound for  the national park, but others to visit the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge.

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©2013 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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