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Rains douse wildfire near Tennessee resort town

From Ed Payne, CNN
updated 4:29 AM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rain helps put out most of wildfire near resort town in eastern Tennessee
  • Firefighters have been able to leave, as just a few hot spots remain
  • About 50 fire departments had been battling the blaze, which started Sunday
  • Fire charred more than 60 buildings

(CNN) -- Heavy rains helped firefighters contain a wildfire that damaged dozens of mountain homes outside the Tennessee resort town of Pigeon Forge.

The downpour allowed authorities to pull most of the teams off the fire line.

A skeleton crew kept watch Tuesday morning, as about five acres were actively burning, according to Tennessee Emergency Management. At the height of the blaze, some 260 acres burned, consuming more than 60 cabins, CNN affiliate WATE-TV reported.

Monday's heavy rains helped fire crews gain the upper hand, according to emergency management spokesperson Dean Flener. The threat of the fire spreading is not over, he said, but has greatly diminished.

"We don't consider the situation in the clear at all," Flener said.

Tornado touches down in Tennessee

Before the rains came, more than 200 firefighters from 50 agencies found it difficult to keep the wildfire under control, as high winds ahead of the storm that provided the quenching rains whipped the flames.

Authorities evacuated some 150 people as the fire that started Sunday afternoon continued to advance Monday afternoon.

Diane Conneely of Boston, and her son Joey Hodgkins, lost most of their belongings when the cabin they were renting went up in flames. The family was visiting a nearby attraction at the time, so they weren't in danger.

"We thank God we're alive and everyone's safe," Conneely told WATE. "Our possessions can be replaced."

Authorities said there was no loss of life and only two minor injuries.

"It could have really been a a lot worse," Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said.

The area is home to scores of rental cabins with some permanent residences.

Pigeon Forge, in eastern Tennessee, is best known for singer Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, which was not affected by the fire.

Positioned on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, the area also is popular with outdoors enthusiasts and has a wide variety of other attractions, including music theaters, outlet malls, go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses.

CNN's Darrell Calhoun, Dave Alsup and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

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