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Following Wildfires, Eastern Tennessee Officials Urge Tourists to Return

Following the devastating wildfires in eastern Tennessee that started last week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, local officials in the nearby resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are urging visitors to return to the region, where tourism is a major industry.   

While the fires raged last week, thousands had to flee the area, hundreds of buildings were damaged, and 13 people died.

But according to tourism officials, most of the attractions, theaters, restaurants, and hotels surrounding the park continue to operate as usual.

Pigeon Forge's Winterfest is continuing as scheduled, and Dollywood—which is also in Pigeon Forge—has resumed normal operations after closing briefly when scores of guests had to be evacuated.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner has a message for those looking for a way to help those in the area. "If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg," he said in a statement, "come back and visit us."