File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Another fatality has been confirmed in the massive eastern Tennessee wildfire — raising the death toll to four, officials said Wednesday.
The blaze — which has devastated the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas in Sevier County — has also injured 45 people, burned hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate, officials said.
The deceased have not yet been identified, officials said
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said on Tuesday that the wildfire is the state’s biggest fire in 100 years.
The fire was exacerbated Tuesday by what authorities have described as “hurricane-force” winds of up to 87 mph.
The heavy winds have presented a challenge to firefighters, who said that trees have been falling and limiting access to certain areas, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller.
Though rain Wednesday morning has been very helpful in controlling the fire, it has also presented new challenges, Miller said. Firefighters are now experiencing some rock and mud slides, he said.
The fire chief added that unless the rain penetrates deep into the brush fire, there is still a threat.
Over 200 firefighters remained on the ground Wednesday morning, according to Miller.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said at a news conference on Tuesday that it was a “devastating time” for the city but that its people were “strong and resilient.”
There are still areas that authorities are trying to reach, Werner said, noting that “nobody had a clue” the fire would spread “that fast.”
The blaze was “a scary sight to see,” he said, adding that “people were basically running for their lives.”
Officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency have said that it is likely that 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the city of Gatlinburg alone and that the wildfire is still burning.
Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines as a result of the fires, officials said.
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