Seven people have died as wildfires raging in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee continued spreading, authorities said Wednesday. Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters confirmed three new deaths at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. No identities were released because the victims’ families hadn’t been notified.
The National Park Service said more than 17,000 acres have been burned in the area, almost 11,000 of them on National Park lands.
Major threatened areas include Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, popular resort towns that lead into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, the theme park named for country music superstar Dolly Parton.
The park wasn’t damaged, a spokesman said, but the fire was perilously close.
Parton, a native of Sevier County, had released a public service announcement with Smokey Bear on Sunday just hours before the wildfires erupted. She warned of forest fires and troubling drought conditions.