WASHINGTON (WATE) – The review of the damage from the Chimney Tops wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park still has not been released. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander demanded answers about what’s taking so long.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke admitted the report is overdue, but Sen. Alexander stressed how much it means to the community.
“In your confirmation hearing, you said that you would pay close attention to the individual fire review for the 2016 Chimney Tops fire in the Smokies – in an area you know well. What’s the status of the review of the park’s response to the wildfires?” said Alexander.
“We owe you a report. We’re late on it, and I expressed my priority to get it to you by the week’s end, but we are overdue on that report. I talked to Representative Roe as well, and he shared the same concerns. I had the same concerns why that report is not submitted to you,” responded Zinke.
“I would appreciate your focus on it because that was a traumatizing event for the people in Tennessee and North Carolina. We lost lives. It was devastating to cut the economy of Gatlinburg, and we’d like your assistance in learning the lessons that we need to learn in order to avoid something like that happening again,” Alexander said.
Fourteen people died in the fires, which caused nearly a billion dollars in damage.