Southern storms should ease drought, but fire threat remains

ATLANTA - Storms roaring across the South appeared to be taking aim at some of the largest wildfires burning across the region, which could finally help firefighters in their efforts to subdue the blazes, authorities said Monday.

As the storm system passed over Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee late Monday, it was heading toward some of largest wildfires in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

In Gatlinburg, Tenn., smoke and fire caused the mandatory evacuation of downtown and surrounding areas, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The wildfire set 30 buildings ablaze and was at the edge of Dollywood, Dolly Parton's theme park, TEMA spokesman Dean Flener said in a news release. TV news broadcasts showed residents streaming out of town just as rain started to wet roads.

The rain forecast "puts the bull's-eye of the greatest amounts right at the bull's-eye of where we've been having our greatest activity," said Dave Martin, deputy director of operations for fire and aviation management with the southern region of the U.S.