Dolly Parton ‘Heartbroken’ as Tenn. Wildfires Threaten Local Families, Dollywood Attraction
Dolly Parton has been left “heartbroken” as raging wildfires sweep across eastern Tennessee, prompting the evacuation of her Dollywood resort.
The city of Gatlinburg and areas of Pigeon Forge, where Dollywood is located, were engulfed in thick smoke on Monday night, as the fires spread from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, prompting local officials to enforce mandatory evacuations.
The Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins were among the locations cleared under the order, but firefighters have so far been able to keep the blaze from spreading to the park itself.
A press release obtained by NBC News reads in part: “There is no damage at the park at this time. High winds continue to spread the fires around the county as the Dollywood resort staff works to protect the Dollywood DreamMore Resort, Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins and other Dollywood property.”
The wildfires have already destroyed more than 250 buildings in the area, and superstar Parton is praying for all affected by the blaze.
“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken,” she says in a statement. “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.”
Parton filmed a warning video for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just days ago, urging people to avoid burning leaves and starting campfires, and parking cars on dry grass. The 30-second footage, which also featured National Parks mascot Smokey the Bear, was released on Sunday, November 27.
Meanwhile, Dollywood bosses have also taken action to rescue a number of bald eagles housed in one of the park’s sanctuaries, run by the American Eagle Foundation.
Staff members helped to remove 50 of the birds of prey on Monday night to save the animals from smoke inhalation, although a few are still to be captured and rehoused. The eagles have been relocated to a nearby convention center until the air clears up and the park is deemed safe again, reports TMZ.
The theme park, previously known as Silver Dollar City Tennessee, was renamed Dollywood in 1986 after the country superstar bought a share in the operating firm. It has since doubled in size and now hosts over three million guests each season, which runs from March to December.