‘Gatlinburg Fire Bill’ aims to ease aftermath for cities, help victims


NASHVILLE, Tenn, (WKRN) – As much of the world saw the raging Sevier County and Gatlinburg fires one year ago today, some state lawmakers were already thinking about ways to help the victims.

Nicknamed the “Gatlinburg Fire Bill,” Rep. John Crawford was like all Tennessee lawmakers watching the devastation around the state’s famous resort town and wondering what he could do to help what would be thousands of victims losing homes.

PHOTOS: Wildfires burning in East Tennessee

He says fellow lawmakers came to him with ideas centering on the unpaid labor public work crews do without reimbursement for the municipalities like Gatlinburg.

“It allows them to get some money that was being left at the federal level,” Rep. Crawford tells News 2.

Lawmakers like Crawford thought of the basics first.

Recovery starts with cleanup, so he sponsored a bill allowing Tennessee Department of Transportation workers to go on private property helping needy locals remove what was left after the flames were gone.

Cities like Gatlinburg could get reimbursed by the federal government for the work done by those public crews.

“Before this bill, that money, even if the highway department did it, it was illegal before because of the way it was set up,” added Crawford.

Crawford said he is waiting on figures to show how many cities and people were helped by the new law.

The Gatlinburg Fire Bill passed both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously.

Click here for complete coverage of the Sevier County wildfires.

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