Gatlinburg, TN residents are facing the prospect of returning to their homes and businesses after unimaginable devastation resulting from a massive wildfire that swept through the tourist city of Gatlinburg, TN. Over 14,000 people were evacuated. It now appears that the fires may have been intentionally set by two Tennessee residents who are juveniles. The number of injuries, the loss of life, and the massive number of properties that were destroyed is gut-wrenching.
“This is the largest fire in the state of Tennessee in 100 years,” said Gov. Bill Haslam, who visited the city Tuesday afternoon.
The number of structure damaged or destroyed by last week’s fires in Sevier County has risen to 2,460.
To date, there have been 176 injuries or illnesses resulting from the fires. There are 14 confirmed fatalities.
The Chimney Tops 2 fire is still smoldering in the park, burning 17,006 acres so far, but it is now 85% contained. A second fire, called the Cobby Nob fire which started the night of the fires in Gatlinburg, covers 803 acres and is 53 percent contained. Thanks to the rain, those fires have not increased in size in the past few days, but they are not completely out.
Authorities have charged two juveniles in connection with the fires that started last month in the Chimney Tops area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and swept through Sevier County, killing 14 and injuring more than 130.
The juveniles were charged with aggravated arson, but could face additional charges later. They are currently being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.
“Everything is on the table,” James Dunn, district attorney general of the 4th District.
During the coming days, a judge will determine whether to grant the two bond and – if so – how much.
They also could be tried as adults.
“Numerous hours have gone into conducting interviews and investigating this incident from every angle,” said Mark Gwyn, director of the TBI, adding that local and state agencies “have been working tirelessly.” –WBIR
This video taken by two step-brothers who tried to escape the wildfires in their car gives outsiders a pretty good view of the horror Gatlinburg residents were experiencing as they tried to escape the wildfires:
— USA TODAY Video (@usatodayvideo) November 29, 2016