Wildfires ravage major East Tennessee tourism spots—here’s how you can help

More than 14,000 people have evacuated the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains, following a series of wildfires that have burned out of control since Monday, damaging hundreds of structures. 

Gatlinburg, along with nearby town Pigeon Forge (also affected by the flames) are two of Tennessee’s biggest tourism draws, known for skiing, restaurants, and hiking. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg was evacuated Monday night, but 1,500 animals remain inside. The area is also home to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park, which brings in around 2.5 million guests every year. 

Combined with the overall economic hardship in Appalachia, a region where income is around 25% less than the U.S. average, it’s a recipe for disaster if these fires remain out of control. 

Facebook has already activated Security Check for Sevier County as well as the neighboring city of Knoxville. No fatalities have yet been reported, but many remain unable to evacuate due to roads blocked by fallen trees and fire. 

Knoxville’s NBC affiliate WBIR-TV has compiled a list of ways you can help, including donations to the American Red Cross.