$500M in damages expected due to Gatlinburg fires

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Local officials estimate that deadly wildfires in East Tennessee caused more than half a billion dollars worth of property damage.

Wildfires driven into the Gatlinburg area from Great Smoky Mountains National Park by high winds killed 14 people and destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 structures.

$500 million is the latest figure of how much it will cost to repair all of the damage caused by the Smoky Mountain wildfires.

Sevier County officials held a news conference on Tuesday and reported the fires have been 100 percent contained.

The focus has now completely shifted to rebuilding efforts.

The wildfires have been devastating, not only to the residents who lost their homes, but also to the families of the 14 people who were killed.

During Tuesday’s news conference, park rangers broke down their response day by day. They say they were fighting severe drought paired with 87 mph winds, which made for a disastrous time for the firefighters trying to contain them.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan said he believes that no amount of firefighters could have stopped the blaze in such extreme wind conditions.

TEMA, Gatlinburg city leaders and the National Park Service deputies all say they are looking back at what happened and their response to it. They say the plan to learn from any mistakes to see what they can do better.

“TEMA attempted to reconnect to send out the alert. TEMA couldn’t because of downed cell towers and they did not send out the alert because the verbiage had not been approved,” said Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller.

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