• Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

    By: Jennifer Brett , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    GATLINBURG, Tenn. - Wildfires fueled by high winds roared through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains, burning the doorstep of the Dollywood theme park, destroying a resort and chasing thousands of people from their homes. In its ashy wake were scorched cars and buildings, and soot-covered debris covered in a smoky haze, The Associated Press reported.

    But Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies posted a hopeful update Tuesday afternoon: All its animals are safe.

    "For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted," the property said in a Facebook post. "We have a team of Marine Biologists and Life Support Experts inside the Aquarium and are happy to report that the animals are safe."

     

    For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted....

    Posted by Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

    Ryan DeSear, general manager of the aquarium, also spoke to the Knoxville News-Sentinel

    "All is fine here at Ripley's Aquarium. Obviously, the city has had a lot of problems, and it has been very hard for us to get into this building, but all the animals are fine. Life support's working great, and the building is coming along just fine, so we're very positive moving forward that we're not going to have any issues."

    Fire erupts on the side of The Spur on Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 28, 2016.
    Jessica Tezak/Knoxville News Sentinel

    He added, "We're very grateful, obviously, to all the people that have been working these fires. ... All is good. We got very lucky here at the aquarium, and we look forward to getting back to business as usual when the time comes."

    Earlier reports were harrowing.

    “We are still not allowed into the city at this time,” the property posted as flamed crept closer to Gatlinburg. “I know our Biologists are trying to get into the city as quickly as they can. We will post updates as soon as we have them.”

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    The aquarium also shared DeSear's video showing the town under smoky siege:

    Arsonists need to go to prison for a long time

    Posted by Ryan DeSear on Monday, November 28, 2016

     

    – The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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