Resort fire damage set at $12 million

Firefighters saved about 200 structures
Mar. 26, 2013 @ 11:11 PM

The total value of the cabins destroyed or damaged in last week’s fire at Black Bear Ridge Resort is estimated at about $12 million, according to figures released Monday.

The total number of structures affected by the fire has been revised again, this time dropping from 81 to 73 after officials determined no cabins had ever been built on some of the concrete pads in the area.

That total includes 53 that were destroyed, while 14 were classified as lightly damaged and the others were classified as partially damaged.

The $12 million total is based on figures from the property assessor’s office, according to John Matthews, director of the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency. It doesn’t include the value of property lost in the fire.

“That is strictly just for the structures themselves,” he said.

Officials believe only one person lost a permanent dwelling in the fire. Elmer King, whose home was atop one of the ridges, was among those evacuated as the flames spread. He was staying with family in the area last week.

The fire didn’t result in any deaths and only caused a few minor injuries to firefighters.

It covered about 160 acres in an area not far from the city limits of Pigeon Forge. It started at one cabin on the afternoon of March 17, but heavy winds whipped embers to two more structures and it quickly spread from there. While the blaze threatened some other structures outside the resort and forced some addtional evacuations, most of the damage was isolated to the resort area.

Officials say 270 responders from 48 different agencies helped fight the fire; many were volunteers.

Matthews said he doesn’t expect the county to face many bills from the agencies that assisted.

“It’s on the assumption next week it’ll be on their backyard and they’ll need everybody to come help them, too,” he said.

The homeowners association for Black Bear Ridge Resort is now in charge of the scene, he said. The association and developers have not responded to requests for an interview from The Mountain Press, but Joyce Whaley McCarter, who developed the resort along with her brother, Jeff, sent a letter to the editor that will run in its entirety later this week.

“I just wanted to thank the Walden’s Creek Fire Department and all others that responded to my 911 phone call after I was informed of the fire at one of the houses,” she wrote. “We did not have to put water in at the resort, but Jeff and I decided that we would pay to run city water and fire hydrants 500 feet apart instead of 1000 feet apart. Needless to say, we know it could have been a lot worse. But we are grateful that many were spared and that we can continue to do business to help Sevier County.”

Officials estimate that firefighters saved about 200 structures from the blaze.

When the resort was developed, the county didn’t have planning regulations. Under the regulations now in place, the cabins would have required a 50-foot setback, and officials have noted some of the cabins were much closer together than that.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com