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Gatlinburg wildfires: Rain helps, hurts firefighting efforts

Much needed rainfall moved across eastern Tennessee on Wednesday, including in the fire ravaged areas near Gatlinburg, Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell said.

More then 4 inches of rain fell just north of Gatlinburg, with amounts of about 1 to 2 inches falling in the active fire zone, he said.

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So far, nearly 16,000 acres have been burned in this area alone.

The recent rain is allowing Great Smokey Mountain National Park employees and firefighters to prepare fire containment lines.

As of 1 p.m. local time Wednesday, only about 10 percent of the Chimney Tops fire near Gatlinburg had been contained. However, wet ground and lower winds are helping firefighters in efforts to get the upper hand.

Unfortunately, a new problem with mud and rock slides, triggered by rain mixing with scarred ground, is slowing efforts because of road closures.

So far, officials say more than 400 structures in Sevier County have been damaged or destroyed. Another 400 or so structures in Gatlinburg have also been damaged or destroyed, according to Gatlinburg Fire Department Chief Greg Miller.

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