‘The whole town is on fire’: video shows cops reaching Gatlinburg victims

July 6, 2017

Officials released the police footage after arson charges were dropped against two juveniles suspected in the blazes.

This newly released dashcam video shows what police and firefighters endured while responding to the Gatlinburg wildfires.

The 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires were a complex of wildfires which began in late November 2016. Some of the towns most impacted were Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, both near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The fires claimed at least 14 lives, injured 134, and are one the largest natural disasters in the history of Tennessee.
By December 12, the fires had burned more than 10,000 acres (15 square miles) inside the national park, and 6,000 acres in other parts of the area.

At least 14,000 area residents and tourists were forced to evacuate, while over 2000 buildings were damaged and/or destroyed.

Insurance claims were an estimated $842 million

The Great Smoky Mountains wildfires were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. since the Great Fires of 1947, which killed 16 people in Maine.

In addition, the fires were also the most deadly and destructive of the 2016 Southeastern United States wildfires. Local news outlets featured continuing live coverage of the situation.

Two unnamed juveniles were initially charged with aggravated arson in connection to the fires. However charges were later dropped because prosecutors didn’t know that they had no jurisdiction over crimes committed inside the park and the unprecedented high wind and downed power lines may have helped spread the fire from the Park into the tourist city of Gatlinburg.

Throughout the course of the investigation which revealed that many of the area fires were likely caused by downed power lines, local officials declined to release any information about the fires or response, citing an erroneous interpretation of a gag order.

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