Evacuations lifted, roads reopen as crews fight wildfire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The emergency evacuation came as crews battle the Rich Mountain Road fire burning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The emergency evacuation comes as crews battle the Rich Mountain Road fire burning the in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 4:32 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 5:20 PM EST
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TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Townsend Volunteer Fire Department lifted voluntary evacuations for people in part of Townsend Tuesday morning due to wildfire activity in the area.

Voluntary evacuation notices were sent to residents on Lail Lane, School House Gap Road, Rich Mountain Road and parts of Dry Valley Road, Old Cades Cove Road and Little Springs Road.

UPDATE November 21st, 09:15am: The voluntary evacuation has been lifted. We do ask that you avoid the Rich Mountain...

Posted by Townsend Area Volunteer Fire Department on Monday, November 20, 2023

The emergency evacuations came as crews battle the Rich Mountain Road Fire burning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That wildfire also closed several roads and areas inside the park.

In an update from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, park rangers and park maintenance staff confirmed that more roads are now being opened after assessing conditions and removing downed trees, debris and other hazards. The following roads are now open:

  • Little River Road
  • Laurel Creek Road
  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cherokee Orchard Road
  • Foothills Parkway West

Tuesday morning, park officials said the fire was about two acres in size, down from six acres overnight. With that shrink in size came an update on the park’s closures; park officials said that the Bypass and Spur had reopened, along with the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers and the Smokemont Campground. The Elkmont and Cades Cove campgrounds are set to remain closed through Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, park officials said they plan to use two Tennessee Department of Forestry bulldozers, the park’s Wildland Fire module with seven crewmembers, a fire engine from the Cherokee National Forest and the park’s fire engine to fight the fire.

Spokespersons at the Tuckelechee United Methodist Church told WVLT the church had seen about 40 people sheltering from the evacuations. The Red Cross is also on scene, they said.

The Blount County Emergency Operations Center opened, staffed by representatives from Blount County EMA, Blount County 911, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Blount County AMR, Townsend Police and Fire, Sevier Electric and Blount County Highway Department as well.