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, Weather.com 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.