For those of us here in Nashville sitting in front of our TV's or listening to the stories of our friends and neighbors fleeing the fires of The Great Smokey Mountains, it was almost unreal. The blazes scorched thousands of acres in the resort-heavy area, burning more than 700 buildings in Sevier County, including about 300 in Gatlinburg alone, and injuring at least 74 people, officials said. Firefighters and other responders were extending their search into previously inaccessible burned areas as several families wait for news about relatives they say have been missing since the fire blew into inhabited areas Monday. Photos and videos emerged of the beautiful wildlife left defenseless and of folks navigating through burning roads in their vehicles to escape the fast moving flames. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families still looking for loved ones.
As you know Tennessee is the Volunteer State. Hundreds of residents have come together with food, shelter and donations for those left without homes and belongings. Nashville's music community has risen to the task as well with the first lady of country music, Dolly Parton, stepping up with an enormous contribution from her numerous foundations.
“I have always believed that charity begins at home,” Ms. Parton said. “And that’s why I’ve asked my Dollywood Companies — including the Dollywood Theme Park; the DreamMore Resort; my dinner theater attractions including Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure; plus my Dollywood Foundation to help me establish a ‘My People Fund.’ “We want to provide a hand up to all those families that have lost everything in the fires,” she said. “And to recover, we want to make sure that the Dollywood Foundation provides $1,000 a month to all of those families that have lost their homes in the fires until they get back up on their feet. I know it has been a trying time for my people, and this assistance will help.”
What is amazing is how in the blink of an eye, the most wonderful and magical resort spot in Tennessee went ablaze. Many artists perform all year in the unique venues, halls and arenas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We here at Renegade Radio Nashville utilized the stage at the Cyrus Family Theatre in Pigeon Forge for half a dozen shows in the last few years. The families visiting over the Thanksgiving holidays and the scenes about to be set for the upcoming Christmas Season by the businesses and residents of the mountain resort were all in our minds. The tremendous loss to residents, families, animal life and businesses will be felt for years to come. Soon folks will be slowly coming back to the area. We pray for all those affected.