Gatlinburg fires: Death toll rises to 7

Updated 4:23 PM EST, Wed November 30, 2016
01:03 - Source: CNN
Dolly Parton helps wildfire victims

Story highlights

NEW: Seven people are reported dead

Several families report missing loved ones

(CNN) —  

The death toll from raging wildfires fires in Sevier County, Tennessee, climbed to seven after authorities recovered three more bodies at a residence, officials said Wednesday.

Authorities are working to identify all the victims and will notify their families as soon as possible, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said.

He said he thinks the three latest victims were adults.

“All of us are praying for those families and are very distressed at the loss of life in this situation,” Waters said.

Several others are said to be missing after the blazes scorched roughly 15,000 acres in a resort-heavy area of eastern Tennessee, which showered residents with embers and forced tourists to evacuate from their accommodations. More than 700 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in Sevier County and in the Gatlinburg city limits, Waters said.

The fires spread with little warning Monday from the Great Smoky Mountains into inhabited areas in and near the resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Waters said about 53 people were injured, and many of them have been released from the hospital.

James Wood’s mother is among those missing.

Wood said his mother was telling him on the phone the wildfire that had roared into Gatlinburg had ignited her home.

Then he lost the connection. He hasn’t heard from his mom, Alice Hagler, since Monday night.

“We had been talking for several hours on and off,” Wood told CNN affiliate WATE on Tuesday night. He had been living with his mother at her Gatlinburg house for the last five months but wasn’t home that night.

“She called me at 8:30 (p.m.) and said the house was on fire. I told her to get out immediately. We got disconnected and I have not been able to get in touch with her since,” said Wood.

07:38 - Source: CNN
Keilar points out Fox News host's hypocrisy
Now playing
07:38
Keilar points out Fox News host's hypocrisy
Now playing
01:23
'There should be no threats': Biden's message to union-busters
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
PHOTO: CNN
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
Now playing
07:40
Former QAnon believer shares bonkers conspiracy theory about Biden
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
Now playing
01:24
'SNL' has 'Dr. Fauci' helping people get vaccinated
The Pokémon Company announced new games during its 25th Anniversary Celebration
PHOTO: The Pokémon Company
The Pokémon Company announced new games during its 25th Anniversary Celebration
Now playing
01:01
See the new Pokémon games coming soon
PHOTO: nickelodeon/from youtube
Now playing
01:33
'Real World,' 'Frasier,' 'Spongebob:' See the reboots coming to this new streaming service
Now playing
02:28
Fisker is making its next electric vehicle with Foxconn
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks onstage during "Introducing Trips" Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Airbnb)
PHOTO: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Airbnb
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks onstage during "Introducing Trips" Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Airbnb)
Now playing
03:51
Airbnb CEO: This is how we outperformed our competitors in 2020
PHOTO: ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
Now playing
01:46
Watch people struggle to identify second gentleman Doug Emhoff
PHOTO: "The Late Late Show with James Corden" / Youtube
Now playing
01:37
See Prince Harry and James Corden tour LA on open-air bus

Hagler’s relatives say they hope she might be taking shelter with someone and just hasn’t been able to make contact. It’s a hope echoed by several other families who say their loved ones in the Gatlinburg area are missing.

“Our search and rescue teams are going out house by house,” Waters told CNN on Wednesday. “There’s a few areas that we were unable to get to on Monday night because of the swift nature of the firestorm … and we’re finishing those up today.