Tennessee wildfire death toll up to 7

(Photo: Oak Ridge Tenn. Fire Department)
(Photo: Oak Ridge Tenn. Fire Department)

GATLINBURG (WATE) – Officials in Sevier County say the death toll has now reached seven in the fires in Gatlinburg and the county.

The remains were found in the Campbell Lead Road area and were all adults. They have not yet been positively identified nor families notified.

A total of 53 people are now reported injured.

Mayor Larry Waters said Wednesday three more people have been rescued – two in an elevator at the Westgate resort and one from a private home on Ski Mountain – and the number of buildings destroyed or damaged just in the county had risen to at least 400. Another 300 or so have been damaged or destroyed in Gatlinburg.

A 6 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew continues in Gatlinburg. The mayor of Gatlinburg says officials are discussing reopening the city, which had been a tourist destination.

Gov. Bill Haslam said this is the largest fire in 100 years in Tennessee.

Authorities say the wildfire is now 10 percent contained. A Wednesday report from the federal team managing the blaze says the Chimney 2 Fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is more than 15,600 acres – about 25 times the size of the University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville.

Officials say it’s the third-largest ongoing fire in the Southeastern U.S.

Though rain has fallen Wednesday, fire officials say the wildfire threat isn’t over. Bonnie Strawser, with the team of fire officials working to suppress the blaze, said the fire “could still rear its head.” Strawser said rainfall reports Wednesday night or early Thursday should provide a better picture of how much rain has fallen on the fire.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee.