Dolly Parton‘s Pigeon ForgeDollywood theme park was spared in the wildfires ravaging East Tennessee, but Parton says she is bereft about the destruction suffered by others in the Great Smoky Mountains.
The forest-fire emergency briefly threatened Dollywood late Monday, only one day after theNational Park Service sent out a Smokey Bear-style video ad that Parton made urging her fans to help protect public lands throughout the Southeast by observing burn bans and reporting fires when they see them.
“I love these Smoky Mountains that I call home, and I know you do, too. Help protect their beauty and prevent human-caused wildfires,” Parton, 70, says in the ad.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken,” Parton said in a statement posted on her website. “I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
Dollywood evacuated 19 cabins that are part of its rental Smoky Mountain Cabins, and more than a dozen were destroyed or damaged, said Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens. Dollywood operates more than 100 of the rental cabins, from cozy cottages to houses that sleep 20, in various places in Parton’s Sevier County, Tenn.
More than 50 Dollywood employees worked with firefighters Monday night and Tuesday morning to protect Parton’s namesake theme park from fires that burned close to the property, including on Upper Middle Creek Ridge behind the park’s south side, Owen said. Firefighters dug a fire line in that area to keep the fire away from Dollywood.
In addition, guests in 50 rooms at Dollywood’s new DreamMore Resort were evacuated Monday evening, he said. The evacuations were carried out as a safety precaution.
A Tuesday morning assessment found Dollywood had no fire damage. High winds caused some minor damage that felled tree limbs and some Christmas trees, Owens said.
Owens didn’t know if any of the damaged or destroyed cabins had been occupied by the guests who were evacuated. A few were located in an area near and behind Dollywood. More of the Dollywood-affiliated cabins may have been damaged, Owens said, because some cabins sit in areas that were still inaccessible Tuesday.
Some Dollywood employees who live in nearby Gatlinburg had homes impacted by the fire but Owens didn’t know the extent of any damage. “We are working on that today, to see what kind of damage they have and what we can do,” he said.
The park, usually closed on Tuesdays in November, will close Wednesday as Sevier County and Pigeon Forge authorities access fire damage in the area. Owens said it was too soon to tell if Dollywood, which is hosting its popular Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, would be closed other days this week.
DreamMore Resort is open for registered guests or people displaced by the fire who need rooms, he said.