Dollywood temporarily suspends park entry due to nearby wildfire

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — Dolly Parton's Dollywood temporarily suspended entry Thursday into the Tennessee amusement park as wildfire crews on Thursday battled nearby flames.

Park officials say they paused entry to allow fire crews enough room to assess the growing blaze in Sevier County east of Knoxville. Guests were again allowed to enter within 30 minutes.

According to the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the blaze was roughly two miles (3.2 km) away from Dollywood.

Tim Phelps, the forestry division’s spokesperson, on Thursday said the 5-acre fire was 100% contained. The division deployed eight personnel, three bulldozers and five trucks to fight the fire, he added.

Phelps said that humidity coupled with low winds have helped keep the majority of fires fought recently from spreading past low acreage. However, he said a “major wind event” is forecast for Monday. Officials are hopeful that rain expected this weekend will douse the area ahead of a potentially blustery Monday.

Across the South, the risk of wildfires has remained high due to prolonged dry and warm conditions, prompting multiple burn bans and warnings for residents and visitors to take extreme caution while outdoors. This includes the National Park Service, which issued a campfire ban throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Currently, the U.S. Forest Service says some of the largest wildfires are active along the Georgia and South Carolina border, as well as in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In southern West Virginia, a 2,200-acre (890-hectare) wildfire continued to burn in a remote area of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. The was fire 78% contained as of Wednesday, the latest available, according to the National Park Service.

The fire burning near Dollywood comes after a deadly wildfire in the area in 2016. The flames tore through the nearby tourist town of Gatlinburg, killing 14 people, and caused an estimated $2 billion in losses, including about 2,500 buildings that were damaged or destroyed.

Parton is a native of Sevier County. In the mid-1980s, Parton partnered with the Herschend family who ran the park, then known as Silver Dollar City. It opened under the new name of Dollywood in 1986.