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Thousands of animals left behind at Ripley’s Aquarium as wildfires hit Gatlinburg, TN

Fanned by strong winds and the Southeast's worst drought in nearly a decade, at least 14 fires burned in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, forcing evacuations from the popular tourist gateway and nearby communities. On Monday afternoon, a wildfire from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread rapidly into communities around it. By early Tuesday, emergency officials said about 100 homes were affected by the blaze.

Fanned by strong winds and the Southeast's worst drought in nearly a decade, at least 14 fires burned in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, forcing evacuations from the popular tourist gateway and nearby communities. On Monday afternoon, a wildfire from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread rapidly into communities around it. By early Tuesday, emergency officials said about 100 homes were affected by the blaze.

GATLINBURG — Workers at an aquarium evacuated because of wildfires around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are concerned about the thousands of animals housed there.

Ryan DeSears, general manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, tells WBIR-TV that the building was still standing and all workers had been evacuated late Monday. However, he said workers were anxious to return to check on the well-being of the 10,518 animals.

DeSears says the animals should be safe as long as the building has power and doesn’t catch fire. When the facility is functioning properly, the animals can survive for 24 hours without human intervention. He said the animals were behaving normally when he left the building.

The wildfire set 30 buildings ablaze and forced the evacuation of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding area.