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Wildfire burns outside Great Smoky Mountains

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — A wildfire burning in a resort area outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee has destroyed more than 30 large rental cabins.
The 145-acre fire was first reported around 5 p.m. EDT Sunday in Sevier County, said Ben Bryson, a fire resources coordinator with the Tennessee Division of Forestry. Smoke was reported to be visible from 25 miles away.
Bryson said early Monday that the fire was contained and not expected to spread.
Some of the cabins were occupied and about 150 to 200 people were evacuated, but no injuries were reported, Bryson said.
After dawn Monday, two Tennessee Air National Guard helicopters took off from nearby McGhee Tyson Airport. A state Forestry Division spokesman said the helicopters would be used to scoop up water from Douglas Lake and drop it on the fire.
“We did have it jump a fire line overnight, but it’s contained this morning,” said Capt. Benny Pickens of the Sevierville Fire Department on Monday.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state emergency Monday morning to make resources available, said Dean Flener, a TEMA spokesman. The declaration did not mean the situation was escalating, Flener said.
National Weather Service forecasters predict a 90 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms Monday and Monday night in the mountain region.
Pickens said the wind often associated with thunderstorms could be a problem for firefighting efforts.
“That’s going to be harmful, but if mother nature drops some rain on it, that will be very much appreciated,” Pickens said.
A survey team was checking Monday to determine specifically how many cabins burned. Pickens said many of the structures were rental cabins.
At the height of the fire, about 100 firefighters from about 30 fire departments were battling the blaze.
The area is home to country star Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, which Bryson said was not being threatened by the fire. Dollywood was the site of a separate brush fire Saturday night but park officials said that fire would not affect the season opening this weekend.

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