US & Canada

Singer Dolly Parton sets up fund for Tennessee fires victims

A screengrab from a video posted by Official Dolly Parton, where the singer promises help for victims of the wildfires in her native Tennessee Image copyright Official Dolly Parton
Image caption Singer Dolly Parton has promised financial help for victims of the wildfires in her native Tennessee

Country music legend Dolly Parton has said her charity will donate $1,000 (£797) a month to families affected by devastating wildfires in Tennessee.

The singer said she would provide help "until they get back up on their feet".

"I've always believed that charity begins at home," Parton said in a video statement.

At least seven people have been killed in the fires in Sevier County, Tennessee, and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Parton's Dollywood Foundation has set up a fund where people can donate to help victims of the fires.

"I know it's been a trying time for my people, and this assistance will help," she said.

The wildfires came to the doorstep of Dollywood, Parton's theme park in Pigeon Forge, Sevier County.

A spokesman said guests were evacuated from some of its properties, and that several cabins and holiday structures were damaged.

Image copyright Twitter/Dollywood
Image caption The Dollywood company posted a tweet urging people to help victims of the fires
Image copyright Alamy Stock Photo
Image caption Fire officials say the wildfire is "right on the doorstep" of Dollywood

Around 45 people have been treated in hospital as a result of the wildfires, and over 700 buildings have been damaged.

Mandatory evacuations are under way around Gatlinburg, a city seven miles (11 km) southeast of Pigeon Forge.

Parton, 70, appeared in a public service advertisement on Sunday, asking people nearby to take steps to avoid spreading the fire.

Later, she spoke of her misery at the toll the blazes had taken.

"I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains, and I am heartbroken.

"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.

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Media captionDolly Parton heartbroken over wildfires

Singer Miley Cyrus, also a Tennessee native, sent her sympathies and support to Parton and the people of the state in an Instagram post.

Sharing a picture of the pair performing together, she wrote: "Love my fairy god mother @dollyparton and sending protective energy to the ever so sacred Dollywood and all of the homes/folks in TN who are experiencing this devastating fire!"

Dollywood will remain closed until 14:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Friday, while the Great Smoky Mountains - the most visited national park in the US - said it had closed all park facilities and many trails.

There is also concern for more than 10,000 animals at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, after all employees were evacuated.

The building is still standing, but "workers are anxious to return to check on the animals", the general manager of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ryan DeSears, told local media.

Image copyright Instagram/mileycyrus
Image caption Singer Miley Cyrus, who grew up in Tennessee, sent her best wishes in an Instagram post

Twenty-six active fires have burned nearly 12,000 acres (4,855 hectares) across the state, Tennessee's Department of Agriculture reported.

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Neighbouring Georgia, as well as North and South Carolina, are also battling wildfires after months of drought.

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Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Motorists stop to view the fires ahead of the evacuation order

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