Knoxville Command Reaches Out After Wildfires

Dec 20, 2016 | by Laura Poff

Knoxville Command Reaches Out After Wildfires

The Salvation Army's Knoxville, Tennessee, Area Command mobilized its disaster canteen to serve areas of Sevier County affected by wildfires near Gatlinburg. The unit operated out of the Army's Sevierville location.

Major Todd Smith, Knoxville area commander, has been overseeing The Salvation Army's relief efforts. "We're calling on everyone to pray for all of those impacted by the devastating wildfires in Sevier County," he said. "Many of these impacted communities will take months or even years to recover. The Salvation Army is committed to being there with them throughout and providing aid wherever it's needed."

Wildfires fueled by months of drought and driven by hurricane-force winds swept out of the area near the Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains Nov. 28, forcing thousands to flee for their lives. Gatlinburg and parts of Pigeon Forge were evacuated. One week later, the death toll stood at more than a dozen, with 134 people injured and nearly 1,700 structures damaged or destroyed, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Access to much of the flame's destruction initially was closed to residents and relief agencies alike. Within a week, as firefighters assisted by timely rains brought the blaze under control, some locals were allowed to return to their homes and businesses.
The Salvation Army stood ready to provide beverages and snacks as well as emotional and spiritual care to residents displaced by the evacuations and left homeless by the fires. Trained staff and volunteers are where the people are, offering hugs and encouragement.

The Army also has teamed up with several Knoxville-area Wal-Mart stores including those in Maryville and Alcoa to provide items for basic needs (hygiene items, non-perishable food, season-appropriate clothing, etc.) to wildfire survivors. Donors can shop for, purchase and leave these items at their local Wal-Mart; The Salvation Army will pick them up for distribution.

Donors can give online at or by calling 1-800-Sal-Army. Please designate giving for "Tennessee Wildfire Response" so 100 percent of donations are used to provide relief for wildfire survivors.

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