Last week two of the biggest tourist towns in the United States, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, were ravaged by numerous wildfires that officials have suspected as arson. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge lay in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Sevier County. The fire was suspected to have started along the Chimney Tops trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and strong winds caused the fire to spread to Gatlinburg. Thousands were forced to evacuate the towns, more than 700 buildings were damaged or destroyed, over 70 people were injured and at least 12 were killed. The number of those injured or killed could rise, as many places in the mountainous area are still inaccessible and many people are still missing.
Country music singer and Sevier County native, Dolly Parton, is creating a fund to raise money for all those who were affected by the fires. She has pledged to donate each family affected by the fires $1,000 a month for six months or until they’re back on their feet. Dolly Parton also owns the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge. David Dodson, president of the Dollywood Foundation, stated, “Like everybody, Dolly was heartbroken. It is a big dream but Dolly is the chief of big dreams.” The donations will come through the Dollywood Foundation which is funded by Dolly herself, local businesses and outside donations. The Dollywood theme park is also housing and feeding emergency personnel that are helping with the clean-up and recovery efforts.
Even some other celebrities have shown interest in helping the families who have lost everything. Dolly stated in a statement on her foundation website, “I have always believed that charity begins at home. We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires.” You can view Dolly’s statement on the fires here.