13 confirmed fatalities, 1000 structures damaged in Gatlinburg fire

seivercountywildfire1_wate

UPDATE:

4:15 p.m.

Beech Branch, Walker Trail and Wiley Oakley Drive are expected to be open by noon Saturday for property owners and renters to inspect their properties and what’s left of them. Supplies, including toiletries, clothes, food and water are available for those who need them at Boyds Bear at 149 Cates Road from 9 to 6 on Saturday and 1 to 6 on Sunday.

___

4:10 p.m.

Authorities in Sevier County have officially confirmed the death of Alice Hagler, 70, in the fire. Her family previously confirmed her death. A soft search of every affected area in the city and county is expected to be complete by 7 p.m. Friday.

____

3:50 p.m.

The cause of the fire near the summit on Chimney Tops appears to be human caused, according to the park. The park is asking for assistance from the public to gather information.

“If you or someone you know hiked the Chimney Tops Trail on Wednesday, November 23, please contact the investigative team. By answering a few questions, you can help provide much-needed information,” said the park in a statement.

___

11:40 a.m.

Gatlinburg city administrators said any mobile device in Gatlinburg got emergency notice about fire at 9:04 pm Monday. Leaders said they are looking into why some people didn’t get alerts and examining their evacuation procedures.

___

11:26 a.m.

Governor Bill Haslam said insurance companies are set up at the Boyds Bear so that homeowners and business owners can make claims.

___

11:17 a.m.

The death toll rises to 12 in the Gatlinburg wildfires. A thirteenth person died from a heart attack while trying to flee the fires.

Vincent Tolley, a medical examiner, released the following names of five of the 13 fatalities:

  • Jon Tegler, 71, of Canada
  • Janet Tegler, 70, of Canada
  • Jon Rosson Summers, 61, of Memphis
  • Janet Pizzo Summers, of Memphis
  • Mae Vance, a vacationer who reportedly died from a heart attack

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said 90 percent of the areas have been soft-searched by Friday evening. “This does not mean that the search is complete. We will continue to search everywhere we can and we are working with the TBI for areas we need to search,” said Waters.

Waters said TBI is continuing to follow-up on leads for missing person.


GATLINBURG (WATE) – Officials in Sevier County say the death toll has now reached 11 in the fires in Gatlinburg and the county. The identities have not yet been released.

Sevier County officials said at a press conference Thursday afternoon 10 people had died. Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Thursday night an 11th person was reported dead. Eighty people have been treated at LeConte Medical Center for fire-related injuries.

Mayor Larry Waters said Wednesday three more people had been rescued – two in an elevator at the Westgate resort and one from a private home on Ski Mountain – and the number of buildings destroyed or damaged just in the county had risen to at least 400. Another 300 or so have been damaged or destroyed in Gatlinburg.

A 6 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew continues in Gatlinburg. A boil water advisory remains in effect.

Gov. Bill Haslam said this is the largest fire in 100 years in Tennessee. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is working to help determine the origin of the fire. ATF Agent Michael Knight said the agency was called in overnight to help with the investigation. He says the investigation is in its initial stages and will take several days.

Missing people

Officials say they have developed a number of leads that have resulted in missing persons being found. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee. Those wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the affected areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley may contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Related: TBI establishes hotline for missing people in Sevier County

“Since our hotline has been established yesterday morning, we received 100 phone calls,” said an agent from TBI in a statement. “We are following up on approximately 70 leads.”

The city has divided up areas into four zones to search for victims.

  • Zone 1 (Ski Mountain Area) – 80 percent complete
  • Zone 2 (Chalet Village) – 90 percent complete
  • Zone 3 (Downtown area) and 4 (Eastern corridor) – Searched

Oats said the goal is to have all zones searched by Thursday night. Animal control and other officers are also checking on displaced animals. The county is asking pet owners to provide names and specific addresses of the animals to the Sevier County Humane Society Facebook page.

Missing people

Officials say they have developed a number of leads that have resulted in missing persons being found. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee. Those wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the affected areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley may contact 1-800-TBI-FIND.

“Since our hotline has been established yesterday morning, we received 100 phone calls,” said an agent from TBI in a statement. “We are following up on approximately 70 leads.”

The city has divided up areas into four zones to search for victims.

  • Zone 1 (Ski Mountain Area) – 80 percent complete
  • Zone 2 (Chalet Village) – 90 percent complete
  • Zone 3 (Downtown area) and 4 (Eastern corridor) – Searched

Oats said the goal is to have all zones searched by Thursday night. Animal control and other officers are also checking on displaced animals. The county is asking pet owners to provide names and specific addresses of the animals to the Sevier County Humane Society Facebook page.

Investigating burned property

All roads will be open in the fire-damaged areas to property owners from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, except Beech Branch Road, Walker Trail Road and Wiley Oakley Road. People must be able to prove they are property owners, leasers or renters. This also applies to tourists who would like to retrieve belongings they left behind. Officials will work with business owners to confirm that people were staying at their lodging businesses.

If all goes well, the access will remain open through Tuesday. There will be one entry station at the East Parkway near Gatlinburg City Hall and can only be reached by Glades Road. There may be areas with active utility workers and first responders and people should be prepared for delays and finding alternate routes.

Structures may not be safe. The city is not implying such by allowing access. Homeowners may bring insurance adjusters with them. The current goal is to reopen downtown Parkway, River Road and Airport Road on Wednesday to the general public.

Mayor Waters says all the fires are extinguished in the county and city, but some hot spots remain. The fire has burned more than 17,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and remains only 10 percent contained there.

“Don’t let the numbers deceive you. In some areas there is nothing left,” said Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller. “Some of these structures, there’s nothing left… to search it much further would take forensics based process.”

Shelters

Evacuations began Monday night in Gatlinburg and eventually spread to parts of Pigeon Forge. The Pigeon Forge evacuation was lifted the following day, but Gatlinburg west of the post office remains evacuated. TEMA estimates more than 14,000 residents and visitors evacuated.

Sixteen people are staying in the Pigeon Forge Community Center while 250 people are staying at Rocky Top Sports World, both of which are Red Cross shelters.

More: How to help: Smoky Mountain fire evacuees

Barker Lounge is open for dogs and Douglas Lakeview Stables at 1650 Providence Road in Sevierville is taking in livestock. A number of other places opened their doors to evacuees but have either closed or people are no longer using their services.

Sevier County Schools will be open Friday except for Pi Beta Phi Elementary and Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. Faculty is to report at regular time at both schools.

Cocke County Schools will be on a regular schedule the rest of the week except for Smoky Mountain Elementary. That school will be closed for the remainder of the week.

National and state response

Gov. Bill Haslam has issued an executive order suspending certain state laws in order to ensure wildfire and severe weather disaster survivors have access to important health care services, consumer rights protections, and availability of state services as they recover.

The White House says President Obama has called Gov. Haslam Wednesday night to express his concern and support about the fires in Gatlinburg.

cyjeu5kwqau8rvl

President-elect Donald Trump issued a statement Tuesday night. Haslam said he has spoken with both trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group is donating $100,000 for food, housing, clothing and other needs for families after the fires. Dolly Parton has announced she has set up the “My People Fund” to help provide families who lost everything in the fire with $1,000 for six months to help them get back on their feet.

“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.” – Dolly Parton

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s