11 dead in Tennessee fire, dozens missing or injured


GATLINBURG (WATE) – Officials in Sevier County say the death toll has now reached 11 in the fires in Gatlinburg and the county. The identities have not yet been released.

Destruction in the Gatlinburg, Tenn. area. (Tennessee Department of Transportation)

Sevier County officials said at a press conference Thursday afternoon 10 people had died. Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Thursday night an 11th person was reported dead. Eighty people have been treated at LeConte Medical Center for fire-related injuries.

Mayor Larry Waters said Wednesday three more people had been rescued – two in an elevator at the Westgate resort and one from a private home on Ski Mountain – and the number of buildings destroyed or damaged just in the county had risen to at least 400. Another 300 or so have been damaged or destroyed in Gatlinburg.

A 6 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew continues in Gatlinburg.

Gov. Bill Haslam said this is the largest fire in 100 years in Tennessee.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is working to help determine the origin of the fire. ATF Agent Michael Knight said the agency was called in overnight to help with the investigation. He says the investigation is in its initial stages and will take several days.Missing people

Officials say they have developed a number of leads that have resulted in missing persons being found. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee. Those wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the affected areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley may contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.

“Since our hotline has been established yesterday morning, we received 100 phone calls,” said an agent from TBI in a statement. “We are following up on approximately 70 leads.”

The city has divided up areas into four zones to search for victims.

Zone 1 (Ski Mountain Area) – 80 percent complete

Zone 2 (Chalet Village) – 90 percent complete

Zone 3 (Downtown area) and 4 (Eastern corridor) – Searched

Oats said the goal is to have all zones searched by Thursday night.

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