14 now confirmed dead in Tenn. fire
GATLINBURG, Tenn. – There are now a total of 14 confirmed fatalities and 145 injuries along with 1,753 confirmed structures lost to the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. The fire was first reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at approximately 5:20pm.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 6, the fire was 58 percent contained, covered a total of 17,006 acres, and had the following firefighting personnel working on the fire: 25 crews, 46 engines, six helicopters, two dozers, and 780 personnel.
The Southern Area Red Team assumed command of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The Red Team, the Type 3 Grey Incident Management Team from Colorado, and other firefighters and equipment are on site.
“This is such a tragedy,” said Mike Dueitt, Incident Commander for the Southern Area Red Team. “It is difficult seeing others suffer. It will take time for this community to heal.”
The City of Gatlinburg plans to reopen for business and to the general public on Friday, Dec. 9 at 7am. Major roadways are expected to be open, but some city roadways may remain closed to accommodate utility work. More information will be provided throughout the week.
The wildfire began burning in a remote location (Chimney Tops) of the Park in steep terrain with vertical cliffs and narrow rocky ridges making access to the wildfire area difficult for firefighting efforts. On Monday, Nov. 27, continuous exceptional drought conditions and extreme winds caused the wildfire to grow rapidly, causing numerous new wildfire starts from embers carried miles away and downed powerlines in and adjacent to the Park. The wildfire was determined to be human-caused and is currently under investigation.