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Donald Trump took to Twitter to acknowledge, pray for, and highlight the wildfires devastating Tennessee the past week. The fires have destroyed countless homes, entire towns, and threaten tens of thousands of residents.
Donald Trump’s tweet read “My thoughts and prayers are with the great people of Tennessee during these terrible wildfires. Stay safe!”
But while the President-elect hasn’t even taken office yet and is still actively bringing awareness to natural disasters in his country the current President Obama refuses to even acknowledge the dangerous fires that are threatening countless lives. The White House is also silent and refuses to sent federal help.
According to local Tennessee fox affiliate, here are 5 things to know about the fires.
1. 3 people have died and hundreds of buildings have been destroyed
A Tennessee mayor says three people have died in the wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses near the Great Smoky Mountains.
2. Thousands of residents and visitors have been evacuated from Sevier County as authorities continue to battle the wildfires.
Emergency officials estimated that more than 14,000 people were evacuated from the city of Gatlinburg alone. Gatlinburg is just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is a popular stop for visitors seeking to explore the mountains.
Roads into the city were closed to all but emergency vehicles Tuesday.
Nearly 12,000 people were without power in Sevier County.
3. Many popular tourist attractions were threatened or destroyed by the flames, including Dollywood, the Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
In a news release Tuesday morning, Dollywood employees said the park itself remained untouched by flames, but a dozen cabins operated by the park were damaged or destroyed. Park operations have been suspended, although the DreamMore Resort will be open to those in need and for registered guests. Guests staying in 50 rooms at DreamMore and 19 cabins operated by Dollywood were evacuated Monday night.
Employees closed Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies as the fire approached. The aquarium is home to more than 10,500 animals. Employees said on Tuesday afternoon that a team of marine biologists and life support experts were inside the aquarium and said the animals are safe.
The family that runs the Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg, a haunted house attraction that has been in business for 36 years, took to Facebook to say they were “devastated” after learning that the house was lost to the Gatlinburg fires.
4. The fires were exacerbated by heavy winds and dry conditions Monday.
The winds, including gusts upwards of 80 mph, combined with low relative humidity and whipped up fires in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials said. The Chimney Top Fire, which is threatening Gatlinburg, originated in the mountains.
Gusts carried burning embers over long distances and sparked new fires in the park’s north-central area and in Gatlinburg, park officials said. Trees felled by the winds brought down power lines and further fed the flames.
Officials with the National Weather Service expect some rain to fall over the area starting after 1 p.m. Tuesday, although emergency officials expect it will have little impact on the wildfires.
5. Hundreds of firefighters and state and local officials responded to the fires.
Helicopters flew over the Chimney Top Fire on Sunday, attempting to douse the blaze with water drops without success.
Tennessee has been under a state of emergency since Nov. 10 due to a drought and wildfires, according to the state emergency management agency. At the time, more than half of the state’s water systems were impacted by the drought. Three counties were so hard hit that their wells dried up.
At the time, 53 fires burned across 9,680 acres of the state. Emergency officials warned that forecasts didn’t appear to show any significant rainfall through the end of the year.
Troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol have gone door-to-door to inform residents about evacuations. Crews with the state’s Department of Transportation have been working continuously to help clear paths for emergency responders. The state’s National Guard has activated more than 100 soldiers to assist.