Country music legend Dolly Parton says she’s establishing a fund to help victims of the wildfires that burned hundreds of homes and businesses in the Great Smoky Mountains area and left seven dead.
She says The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation are establishing the My People Fund, which will provide $1,000 monthly to Sevier County families who lost their homes.
More than 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg on Monday night and many of them are still nervously awaiting word of when they can get back in the city to see if they still have homes.
The flames reached the doorstep of Dollywood, the theme park named after Parton. The park was spared any significant damage and will reopen Friday.
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Parton said she hopes the financial assistance will help people who lost everything get back on their feet again.
I am praying for all the families affected by the fire, and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe.
Earlier in the week, Parton said she was heartbroken about wildfires that tore through the Tennessee county where she grew up.
In a statement released Tuesday by her publicists, Parton said she’s been watching the “terrible fires” in the Great Smoky Mountains.
“I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe,” she said.
In a video released just hours before the wildfires engulfed Gatlinburg and areas around Pigeon Forge, Parton urged people to prevent forest fires.
Parton appears with Smokey Bear in the 30-second video released Sunday by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She tells people to avoid burning leaves and parking vehicles on dry grass, and warns that even a campfire can spark a wildfire.
Dollywood officials said the theme park itself wasn’t damaged but more than a dozen cabins operated by the park were damaged or destroyed by the wildfires.
Parton is a native of Sevier County, Tennessee, which includes both Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge, according to historical documents on the park’s website. In the mid-1980s, Parton partnered with the Herschend family who ran the park, then known as Silver Dollar City. It opened under the new name of Dollywood in 1986.
This story was complied from Associated Press reports.