Dolly Parton Speaks Out as Dollywood Is Threatened by Wildfire That Has Critically Injured 3: 'I Am Heartbroken'
The 70-year-old singer appeared alongside Smokey Bear to ask for the public’s help in preventing wildfires
Just one day before the Dollywood theme park was evacuated due to a Tennessee wildfire that has caused extensive destruction to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the nearby community of Gatlinburg, a PSA featuring Dolly Parton warning about the dangers of wildfires was released.
The 70-year-old singer appeared alongside Smokey Bear to ask for the public’s help in preventing wildfires.
“We had a beautiful fall this year in the Smoky Mountains, but this extended drought has resulted in high wildfire danger,” Parton said in the video released Sunday. “As dry as it is, please help firefighters avoid wildfires.”
Parton asked that visitors to the region refrain from burning leaves, not to park vehicles on dry grass and be cautious when starting campfires.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Parton says, “I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.”
Thousands in-and-around the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, where Parton’s theme park is located, were evacuated Monday night as wildfire raged through the area.
According to a press release from Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens, an assessment of the park Tuesday morning revealed no damage to the theme park itself. However, more than a dozen cabins managed through Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins were damaged or destroyed.
Monday evening, guests staying at the cabins and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort were evacuated.
Dollywood has suspended park operation for Wednesday, Nov. 30.
“Unpredicted, extreme weather conditions on Sunday afternoon through Monday led to the exponential spread of fires both inside and outside of the National Park,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said in a press release Tuesday.
“Severe wind gusts of over 80 mph, unprecedented low relative humidity, and extended drought conditions caused the fire burning in the National Park to spread rapidly and unpredictably, in spite of suppression efforts on Sunday that included helicopter water drops.”
No deaths have been reported yet, but three Gatlinburg burn victims are in critical condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, according to a spokeswoman for VUMC.