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Tennessee wildfires threaten Ripley's aquarium and Dollywood

UPDATE: Gatlinburg officials say the Ripley's Aquarium is intact and generator power was used to keep the animals safe during the fire

Wildfires in Tennessee have engulfed more than 30 structures in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with particular concerns over Dollywood and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, where staff have been forced to abandon the attraction’s animals.

The wildfires were listed as 100 per cent contained by the Division of Forestry on Sunday (27 November), with two inches of rain forecast for Monday and Tuesday. Instead winds reaching 40mph (64kmph) and lack of rainfall exacerbated the situation, rapidly spreading the flames. An Air Quality Advisory for the area has also been issued due to the smoke.

The aquarium, which houses more than 10,000 creatures, was still standing as of midnight local time on Tuesday.

Speaking to 10News, Ryan DeSear, general manager of the aquarium, said that he had to force workers to leave because they didn’t want to abandon the animals.

"Nothing is more important than human life,” he said. “Fish can be replaced. It sucks."

According to DeSear, if the power remains on and the building doesn’t catch fire, the aquarium’s animals can survive for 24 hours without human interaction. If the power goes out the risk increases significantly.

With the wildfires spreading across the Gatlinburg area, Dollywood was forced to evacuate 19 occupied cabins in the theme park’s resort area, while 50 guests were also evacuated from its DreamMore Resort.

While there is no damage to Dollywood at present, firefighters have been battling nearby flames to try and keep them from the park.

Gatlinburg  Ripley's Aquarium  Smoky Mountains  Wildfire  Fire  Dollywood  Dolly Parton  visitor attraction 
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UPDATE: Gatlinburg officials say the Ripley's Aquarium is intact and generator power was used to keep the animals safe during the fire Wildfires in Tennessee have engulfed more than 30 structures in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with particular concerns over Dollywood and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, where staff have been forced to abandon the attraction’s animals. The wildfires were listed as 100 per cent contained by the Division of Forestry on
TAW,VAT
High winds in the area have caused the fires to spread rapidly / Jessica Tezak/AP/Press Association Images
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