Wisconsin Dells-related resort in Tennessee survives wildfire, helps recovery
Wilderness at the Smokies resort was safe from the deadly flames of this week's sudden wildfire in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
But the resort's management and staff quickly became part of the rescue and recovery effort that is continuing in the wake of the tragedy that took the lives of at least 11.
The Sevierville, Tennessee, resort — owned and operated by Dells-based parent company Stand Rock Hospitality — is more than 10 miles from the out-of-control conflagration that came roaring out of Smoky Mountains National Park starting late Monday to devastate parts of Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
The resort was unaffected by the deadly fire but joined in the recovery effort even as local and regional first-responders battled to contain the blaze, according to Wilderness at the Smokies Marketing Director and Baraboo resident Josh Bahe.
Bahe arrived in Sevierville Tuesday as the fires continued to rage nearby and quickly changed management hats in order to help the resort respond with communications to existing and future guests as well as to provide aid to local survivors and shelter for first responders.
"Company business got pretty much put on hold when I got down here," Bahe said Thursday afternoon. "It's been a week of assisting with the process of accommodating whoever we can."
Resort management quickly volunteered its services as a community donation, collection and distribution site for supplies to help those displaced by the fires, according to Bahe. More than 1,000 homes and businesses in the area were destroyed by the blaze, according to news reports.
"We acted quickly because we wanted to get out ahead of the effort," said Bahe, who by mid-day Tuesday had posted an announcement on the resort's website (www.wildernessatthesmokies.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Wildernessatthesmokies?ref=share) asking for donations to be delivered to the resort's Stone Lodge building.
Responses to the request, he said, came pouring in both from around the popular Tennessee tourism area, the surrounding region and beyond.
"It has been overwhelmingly great," he said. "Someone drove up in with a semi-trailer full of supplies and offered to leave it in the parking lot."