More than 14,000 people have evacuated as a wildfire engulfs the Tennessee cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, with hundreds of them ending up in emergency shelters around the area. Michael Reed hopes his wife and their young daughters are among them. Reed tells WATE he spoke to his wife Monday, and she said there were flames across the street from their house. Reed and his son were unable to get back home, landing at one of those emergency shelters. Since then Reed has learned their home was destroyed and has been unable to find his wife and daughters. He's "hoping for a miracle." USA Today reports there have been no confirmed fatalities, but three people are in critical condition after suffering burns. At least a dozen people have been injured in the fires, according to the Washington Post.
The wildfire started Sunday, consuming 10 acres of Tennessee's Smoky Mountains. By Monday it had grown to 500 acres. Nearly 90mph winds sprayed embers and knocked down power lines, starting new fires. "Everything was catching on fire," the Gatlinburg fire chief says. A firefighter told USA Today it was "the apocalypse," and a woman described ash "falling from the sky" for hours. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies was lucky, WBIR reports. Employees were forced to evacuate late Monday with flames just 50 yards away, leaving more than 10,500 animals to their fate. They returned Tuesday to find the aquarium still standing and its inhabitants OK.