Gatlinburg Fire Cause: What Started the Wildfire?

GATLINBURG, TN - NOVEMBER 29: The remains of a home and cars smolder after a wildfire November 29, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area and over 100 houses and businesses were damaged or destroyed after drought conditions helped the fire spread through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The remains of a home and cars smolder after a wildfire November 29, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Getty)

With more than 14,000 people evacuated from the Gatlinburg, Tennessee fire and more than 700 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, the Sevier county wildfire may have been the largest in Tennessee in the last 100 years. But what caused the fire that killed 14 people? Experts believe the fire was man-made, and they just announced that two juveniles were arrested in connection to the fires.

Here’s what we know so far.

Two Juveniles Were Charged with Aggravated Arson

From the beginning, experts believed that the original fire that sparked the huge blaze may have been man-made, originating from a fire at Chimney Tops Trail, according to local news source The Daily Times. On November 26, a three-acre fire closed parts of the Chimney Tops Trail region of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This may be the fire that grew to engulf other areas in Tennessee, reported. The original Chimney Tops Trail fire appeared to be the result of someone’s actions, Chief Ranger Steve Kloster announced in a press release from Nov. 26. Extremely dry conditions in Tennessee made it easier for the fire to grow.

On December 7, authorities reported that two teenagers were arrested in connection to the fire. They were charged with aggravated arson and are waiting a hearing in juvenile court. After that, prosecutors may try to have them tried as adults. The teens’ names, ages, and genders were not released.

Dry Conditions Helped the Fire Spread

There have been a number of wildfires in Tennessee over the last few weeks due to extremely dry conditions, ABC 7 reported. On Monday night, winds topped 87 mph and helped this particular fire quickly grow to an enormous size. The winds blew down power lines, sparking new fires that quickly spread.

What was originally a wildland fire on Chimney Top Mountain quickly spread onto private property in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported. It then grew into the enormous fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.

The person or people responsible for the fire have not yet been found. Earlier on Tuesday, media reported that a man was arrested for setting three fires that spread into a 300-acre fire in Tennessee. This appears to be connected to fires from earlier in November, not the Gatlinburg fire. We will update this article as soon as we have more details.

Gatlinburg Fire Damage: List of Destroyed Businesses & Landmarks

Which businesses and landmarks were destroyed in the Gatlinburg fire and which escaped unscathed? See the latest list here.

Click here to read more

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  1. Well, little by little, and in this case, larger and larger the damage being done to our beloved nation is mounting. I don’t think I’ve heard one word about the the wild fires from our esteemed pres. Maybe he hasn’t had the news on lately. Well, from his own mouth, that’s where he found things out. And we all know the big three and the also rans would never report anything derogatory about this regime. Sooooo, he must be watching Fox. Shame on you, Mr. Parez-ee-dent. Shame, shame, shame on you. [sung to the last line melody of happy birthday.]

    • People are losing their homes, businesses, pets, and in some cases their lives, and you’re taking the opportunity to spout ignorance about an official response from the president on it? Please stop posting ignorant tripe online. Thank you.

      • So in your opinion it’s better to what get no word from our elected officials? It’s usually the first response in a number of responses that include emergency measures such as the release of federal funds and assistance such as the national guard for the effected area. I would hardly call it tripe.

      • Ignorance? If a fire had been started and it had killed 14 black people and the projects or low income housing area, the boys would be charged with a hate crime and #blackLIESmatter would be protesting and Obama would be all over it. The Smokey ms are the MOST VOTE national park in the USA (more than yellow stone which is amazing), I think a real POTUS would at least make a comment. I feel for ppl in the area but I’m not in a position of power to get on TV and say it. OBAMA IS!

      • I totally disagree with you Dubb. Our “president” is quick to jump on television when there is a reported case of violence against a black person. As the leader of our nation it should be the president who tries to help heal those who have lost so much by providing as much support as he can.

    • Of course not now if it were a Muslim area he would be right on it. This is sickening and I say look to the Muslims in the area, why they just burned down 50% of Israel, this is in their playbook and they have done this many times in other countries ask Australia. Whoever is responsible for this suffering and damage to this beautiful country of ours needs to be punished to the extent of the law and put away forever. My prayers with you today. I live next to a National Forest and we would suffer great loss if this happened here.

      • Actually, it was two shit-kicking rednecks… just like the ones who support Trump and are vehemently anti-Muslim. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, because it was one of your own, bigot!

        • Look Joel, they are sure who did this but it was arson! I owned property there since 80’s and my home and many others is a total loss, many deaths both human and wildlife. It doesn’t matter who set it, not to me. I hope they catch them and they never make it to jail! I supported Trump and I’m not anti Muslim, I’m anti terrioism! You don’t know who did it and if YOU do turn them in. You criticize others and you are doing the same thing! You’re an idiot! I guess since you are caliling people rednecks you’re a bigot too! I hope Trump STOPS anyone from entering this Country illegally and without being vetted throughly, in case you haven’t noticed you putz, they are killing America citizens and if you are a sympathizer then move to the mideast and hold on to your head! Im so angry with the whole situation and I’m tired of people like you, snowflake sympathizers always running your mouth. Anyone who could support Hillary says a lot about you! I hope Trump does exactly what he says he was going to do and more. Who’s one of your own the cop killers or the protesters burning, looting, protesting, disturbing the peace. They wanted Trump to accept the election results so why don’t all of you do the same thing, I know why your a bunch of low life losers. Don’t worry about responding to my post because I won’t be reading it so stick that up you A** with a stick of dynamite and light the fuse! You’re stupidly is exasperating to me! You sort piece is shi*!

        • Bla bla bla read it off the script. Heard it. Keep your crap. If you are unaware that MUSLIMS have been setting fires in Israel and Europe then you have your head in a box. Sticks and stones may break bones, but being falsely accused of bigotry is comedic when it comes from an ignorant child.

        • Awww..poor snowflake’s feelings are still hurt over the election…waaaaaa!!! I’m seriously and thoroughly enjoying the liberal tears this year. The election is over, and more stuff has happened since Trump was elected. It’s fine if you want to spew hate on a political post..but this isn’t one. This is a sensitive topic, and now isn’t the time.

          • I am a Yankee corn fed Midwesterner and a Trump supporting Conservative. As a veteran I know that starting fires is in the terrorist hand book. One person committing a cowardly act of arson can create havoc, instill terror, consume resources and kill and hurt many. Israel has burned, Australia has burned. and there are currently more large fires burning in the US. I am not saying that it was caused by extremists, but we would be fools not to address the possibilities. These bleeding heart libtards sure have a double standard. If a police officer is shot they don’t say anything yet when a low life scum bag gets shot by police while committing a crime they riot. Anything these libtards have to say is meaningless.

        • Really Joel Who are You & What The “F” Have You been Smoking … I looked at your profile … You say You are a Lawyer … as “Dubb says: “People are losing their homes, businesses, pets, and in some cases their lives, and you’re taking the opportunity to spout ignorance about an official response from the president on it?
          Do This Mr.. Cold Cock/ Colquitt… Grow up Or better Yet …Grow a Pair … this has absolute Nothing To Do w/ President elect Trump If You Read The news it is The “Hillary” Supports- As Yourself- Correct ! That are setting Fires dumb Shit !

        • Joel, you are correct! This is why we have not seen the young juveniles on TV. If they were little brown kids, they would have been flashed all over the news by now. The President cannot comment about each and every situation. Although this was tragic, the responsible parties and their families have not been blasted on the media either (I think they should). This case is not different than the 14 year old kid who murdered a pizza delivery driver. He was a child but his picture is all over the news. 14 people lost their lives in this INTENTIONAL FIRE and there is no mention of the boy’s names. Don’t forget that there was another flood in Louisiana this year and it didn’t get any major news coverage either.

      • That’s my thoughts exactly! Muslims have moved in NC and have tried taking over the Unversities! They have stores in Gatlinburg,two summers ago they were walking around like they owned the place! They have burned down Israel ,it wouldn’t surprise me if they were tha cause of this Horror! Whom ever did this is going to pay dearly! Where ever these people go they bring death and destruction with them!

    • So what can he do about it, he’s not a fire fighter, YALL act like these men are super hero’s. Just make sure you go help and donate.

    • It’s them dad gum stills up there. Moonshine is like a freakin grenade. Darn hillbillies go no sense of right vs wrong and no respect for human life nor the law. You know what these idjuts need. They need Judge Dredd. I AM DA LAWWWWWWWWWWWW! Bwa ha ha ha. Now git back to playin yer dad dum banjos! hee haw lol lol

      Da Frow-sted One

    • Stop crying about the best president of all time (President OBAMA), GROW UP!!! You all got what you want now. Keep it moving!

    • Obama has been working closely with the Tennessee governor and has already mobilized FEMA and approved an aid grant, and the White House has already given a statement of sorrow. Do your research, babe.

    • (Bonnie Davis) Typical spouting of the mouth from a bitter Dem. who has to turn absolutely “everything” into a politcal affair. You’re just ticked because you and your comrades are having to eat a LOT of crow right now….Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.

    • (Bonnie Davis) Typical spouting of the mouth from a bitter Dem. who has to turn absolutely “everything” into a politcal affair. You’re just ticked because you and your comrades are having to eat a LOT of crow right now….Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.

  2. Look to the Muslims in the area they just burned down 50% of Israel and it is in their Playbook who else would do such a thing? Muslims burned Australia also and other places.

        • Another idiot! Imagine that this day and time. If you owned property or loss someone in the fire you might just learn to keep your big gapping mouth shut! You stupid SOB! Move if you don’t like this country!

        • Why can’t you people to admit Muslims are trying to destroy this Country! And as far as Red Necks go,just get in one of their faces and say that ,you would be picking your ass off the ground ! I’ve lived around that area for 35 yrs and you can’t find nicer people the Mountain People,they will find out who did this ,and you can caught on that and if it was Muslims ,I would say they will be made a example out of!

          • Sweet myth-believing Marilyn, have you read the Old Testament? You are brainwashed by your particular brand of fairy-tale. Research the history of your religion and holy book. Search for the truth BEHIND the “truth” preached in your religion. Read some philosophy on the concept of free will. Don’t be a blind sheep follower. You have a brain, use it to develop rational and logical skills.

          • Unless you’re a witch, an adulterer or gay and then the bible is perfectly fine killing you. Both books are filled with violence and hate. Both religions are actively trying to force people to convert or at least live by THEIR rules and beliefs. One is not better than the other just slightly different.

          • Clearly you have never actually read or know anything about the Bible, particularly the first testament, if you think God has and is only about mercy and salvation. A number of times the Bible mentions that women shouldn’t have any rights and beaten for stepping out of line, gays should be met with an unfortunate end, people should own slaves and God asking someone to kill his brother to essentially do nothing more than to prove his allegiance. The Bible is not even close to being just a book about mercy and salvation, and this is the problem with organized religion. People go on spewing half the truth, only willing to accept the parts they were told or choose to believe in, and go around telling everything that THEIR religion is the right one and other’s are wrong. What a joke. You have no more proof your God exists than they do, and logically speaking, God doesn’t exist, and it’s just a safety blanket for people who can’t handle how the universe actually works. OPEN YOUR EYES, STOP BEING SO BLIND.

          • @Marilyn Phillips’re exactly right. The Bible has no directions whatsoever to kill infidels, it teaches us to love our opponents. Atleast we can say that our God demonstrates his love for us on a daily basis..and last time I checked, when casting out demons…I don’t think i’ve ever heard someone do it in the name of Allah. Screw Allah.

        • Hey Trxll, you baaaaaa like a sheeep but look up Dhimmitude in wiki for enlightenment! The treatment of non-muslims under Sharia and if your town, county, state or country extends charity to Muslims, the radical Islamists refer to it as ‘Jizya’ (sometimes written as jizyah and pronounced “jiz-yuh”) is the term for a tax paid by non-Muslims. The tax is the result of a centuries old contract called a dhimma. Get a real life education before blowing libral hard at me idiot! Entitlement, superior and Muslim is almost synonymous these days!

    • LOL, yes it’s definitely the Muslims. In fact, I believe they just arrested a Muslim by the name of Andrew Scott Lewis of eastern Tennessee, who admitted to starting 3 other wildfires in the state. It certainly can’t be some meth ‘n moonshine loving inbred from them thar hills.

      • Just because people are from Tennessee, does not mean that they are on Meth, drink Moonshine, or are inbred…..Maybe we should stop fighting with each other, and worry more about all of those people that were affected by this horrible fire. That is what this article is about, not everyone getting the chance to trash everyone else. People need to grow up, and act like adults for once, and stop fighting all the time like kids!

        • I agree but this will never happen and people including myself are tired of their CRAP! We are beginning to fight back first step to progress was electing Trump. I am enjoying every second of these big mouth liberals misery!

      • Could be but does it matter? Many people including me loss property up there and worse than that lives both human and animal have died! If you don’t live there shut your d mouth!

        • Well you got more time on your hands to play on your computer and reruns of Hee Hawwwwwwwwwwwwww



      • It never ceases to amaze me how the liberals yell racism and bigotry but are the most racist and bigoted people I know.

      • actually, Andrew Scott Lewis was arrested early in november for completely unconnected arson cases. Two “Juveniles” were arrested- no names or pictures, but I think we can guess. All The Snackbars!

    • Yep. Their Imams have been calling for it for a couple of years now. Funny how these people have no clue about that. To much blabbering and not enough listening.

  3. Please provide an update as soon as possible regarding the cause of this horrible destruction! Your article is clear and provides great info!

    I have elderly family south of this area and appreciate the updates!

  4. such a shame if someone did start this fire that they potentially might burn down one of my personal favorite vacation destinations

  5. What I want to know why did it burn for 4 plus days until it got out of hand and no one tried to put it out before it spread into Gatlinburg? That’s what o want to know it was before rnibg before thanksgiving we have a home there and it and every other one in chalet village north is gone. I hope they catch them and they never make it back to jail. I hope they burn them alive!!!

    • It’s them dad gum stills up there. Moonshine is like a freakin grenade. Darn hillbillies go no sense of right vs wrong and no respect for human life nor the law. You know what these idjuts need. They need Judge Dredd. I AM DA LAWWWWWWWWWWWW! Bwa ha ha ha. Now git back to playin yer dad dum banjos! hee haw lol lol

      Da Frow-sted One

    • They ‘LET’ it burn for four days? ‘No one’ tried to put it out before it resulted in you losing your EXTRA house? What exactly do you think they were doing—sitting up there eating sandwiches, just enjoying the view? What dreamland do you live in? It sure ain’t East Tennessee!

      If you knew one thing about the Smokies, you’d know Chimney Tops’ reputation. FIREFIGHTERS CANT GET UP THERE. They were flying in helicopters that were collecting water from the ponds of locals, who had to throw their hoses in the ponds just to keep the supply up. PS: we haven’t have a day with more than an inch of rain since JULY. What did you think, that firefighters are wizards that magically can control high-severity fires? That they’re incredibly well-funded and have the manpower to control a fire they can’t reach over a HUGE treacherous mountain? That they’re roasting marshmallows instead of trying to save people’s lives and your house? You ignorant twat. You sit in your house watching the TV, blamin’ the ‘Moos-lims’ for the country’s troubles, basking in the ambience of an impending Trump presidency and the misery of those sniveling liberals, complaining that the superhero firefighters aren’t working hard or fast enough to save your CHALET made of WOOD that you own located in a HUGE FOREST that sees MULTIPLE WILDFIRES EVERY. FLIPPING. YEAR.

      The fire carried down the mountain so quickly due to the HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS that at least 11 people couldn’t get out of their houses fast enough.

      But firefighters are getting paid d**k to control huge fires and putting themselves at risk so you can have your nice vacation home in an area KNOWN for frequent fires. People died in that neighborhood, and they had little to no warning. Thousands of people lost everything they had. But hey guys, HER CHALET BURNED DOWN.

      I guess the firefighters should’ve used the tears of those miserable liberals to put the fire out. Because they’re magical, right? Good lord in heaven, save us from this entitlement….firefighters didn’t try to put it out, JESUS….

      • Thank you Sally!! God Bless the firefighters risking their lives ! They are heroes, only foolish people and as you put it entitled people even make such accusations…Kelly , maybe you should volunteer to help with your expertise, you can protect everyones chalet and do it properly! ;)

  6. WTF is WRONG with you people??
    this isn’t a forum for politics.
    get over yourselves . . . . . how can y’all HELP? key board warriors you are . . . FFS.

  7. No one has considered that this fire could of been set by some MOONSHINER…This is the time of the year they always make moonshine in thoses hills.,, not to mention many hills in the south… On the tv show “MOOSHINERS” they not only make moonshine in thoses hills,, they claim the stills blow up and catch on fire all the time……

    • Finally the voice of reason. I guess we aren’t all lost afterall. I didn’t want to admit it here but I lost my still and moonshine stock in the fire too and it was the “GOOD STUFF”.

  8. Mr Frosted One I apologize. You are right all along. We are a bunch of redneck worthless hillbillies. I just wanted to get your attention so I might have the chance at honoring you by bearing one of your children. My hammock was lost in the fire. Can we get together? I need a date and really want your “Manhood”.

  9. This is a State controlled emergency response. Has the State administration declared a State of Emergency? If not, why not? If they have, did they follow that up with a request for help from the Federal resources? Wildfires in dry conditions with forecasts of high wind should trigger responses from both local and state authorities before fires start. In California it always seemed accepted that small fires got big and immediate responses. That’s where the easiest containment happens. Citizens in any area of the country that have cconditions favoring wildfires need to have plans in place.

  10. This fire was arson no doubt in my mind the problem is that the people who do things like this never get caught or punish for it. Just make me sick. What goes on in people mind to think this is alright to do. Well they will meet their maker someday. Just makes me so sick to see what is happening to the Tennessee mountain was so beautiful.

  11. I say someone camped & had a camp fire. Wind blew & Bam! Fire started & they freaked out. Stupid ppl. Lack of common sense. It’s the sign of the times, lack of discipline on the kids from atleast 80s on. Government officials should have been involved from the get go, but if was a racial this they would have jumped on the wagon already. God bless the families & everyone that has been affected by the travesty.

  12. Here is what I don’t understand, if a juvenile climbs into someones back yard pool and drowns that kids parents will sue the home owner that owns the pool, but when a juvenile causes a fire the victims can’t sue the parents of the children that started the fire, that’s crazy.