Two juveniles charged with starting fire that burned into Gatlinburg

The juveniles were taken into custody Wednesday after an interagency investigation.

Chimney Tops 2 Fire

Above: Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Incident Management Team photo.

On Wednesday two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson for starting the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The fire resulted in the deaths of 14 people and damaged or destroyed 2,460 structures.

The juveniles were taken into custody after an investigation conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, National Park Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.

Due to laws regulating the handling of juveniles, very little was disclosed about the two individuals, except that they do not live in Sevier County but are residents of the state of Tennessee.

Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, speaks at a news conference about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, December 7, 2016.

Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the phone line established to gather information proved to be valuable.

The public was critical in responding to that tip line and giving the investigators something to work with. The tip line had about 40 tips within just a few minutes of going online.

The fire was reported November 23 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. By November 27 it had grown to 35 acres while being monitored by the National Park Service. A cold front brought very strong winds into the area on November 28 which caused the fire to spread explosively north into Gatlinburg, destroying lives, homes, businesses, and eventually 17,006 acres.

Below is a video of the press conference announcing the arrest.

For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

6 thoughts on “Two juveniles charged with starting fire that burned into Gatlinburg”

  1. Hello,
    Some great info., ‘Wildfire Today’….Grew up just across the Smokies from Gatlinburg, Tn., in Bryson City, N.C. Manned a Forest Service firetower in Mitchell county, N.C. for 3 fire seasons. Kinda sad the towers aren’t utilized anymore. Very little wilderness left to watch over anymore, I guess. Now, on to my question. It’s been bone dry here in western N.C. as I’m sure you know. Several large fires scattered across the mountains (just saw where all of the wildfires here are now 100% contained) including the Tellico and another one in the same general area the name of which escapes me. Over 10, 000 acres or more burned in and around Franklin, Macon county…Robbinsville, Graham county, Bryson City, Swain county as well as in other areas around W.N.C.
    The Gatlinburg wildfires–one for the history books no doubt. From everything I’ve heard and read, the predominate winds were from the s-sw. High pressure moving out producing strong winds ahead of that approaching cold front. Nothing we haven’t seen before, though maybe a bit stronger than usual. And it was this strong s.sw. that blew these red hot embers from the Chimney Top 2 blaze right down the mountain into the Gatlinburg/Sevier county area. Also, were a few fires, to be absolutely correct, in a couple of counties bordering Sevier, though no ways as bad as this one. Being that the Chimney Tops are located south of Gatlinburg, no surprise these winds, aided by extreme drought, as well as the forest floor build-up of fuel sources, especially within the GSMNP, conditions were ripe for a fire. My question, since the strong winds were from the south, and the biggest N.C. wildfires were south-southwest from Gatlinburg, why didn’t something similiar happen there? As far as I know, western N.C. was in a parallel situation with G-burg/ Sevier county that night…strong winds, extremely dry forest floor, low humidity et al. Though the area the wildfires are burning in and around the above mentioned areas of western N.C. aren’t quite as developed (thank God) as the densely packed condos, rental houses, downtown area that Gatlinburg is known for. So many people wanting to live in the woods now (heck, that’s where I grew up, in the way back woods of Swain county) without realizing that if you want to live somewhere like that, you have the responsibility, if not for yourself, then for others to make your home as fire resistant as possible. Simple things…clear brush, trees from around your home, at least 30-40 ft…sow some grass in this ‘buffer zone’, (though, with the erratic behavior of the Gatlinburg wildfire, even this may not have made much of a difference) don’t stack firewood right against your house…ect…

  2. The “elephant in the room” question is… “What suppression efforts were made in the four days between detection and conflagration?”
    Followed by why or why not?

    1. I want to know if the same tactics were used on the chimney 2 fire as the first chimney fire. It appears the Thanksgiving holiday could have delayed or reduced the response.

  3. I would like to know why the blame is being put on to kids when there was five days before the winds came and what i understand is that no one did any thing to put the fire out until it was too late i am not saying that the two suspects should not be punished for what they did but i think most of the blame falls on those who did not react in time. Who ever that might be .

  4. Having read the analysis of this fire, I would have to agree with Randy. Most of the blame should fall on the national park service and their lack of lack of foresight and cavalier attitude towards this fire in the 5 days preceding November 28th.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *