Don Jacobs of the Knoxville News Sentinel has written a well researched article about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee on November 28. The fire was monitored but not suppressed for five days until a predicted wind event pushed the fire into the city, killing 14 people, destroying 2,013 homes and 53 commercial structures, and causing more than $500 million in damage.
In addition to talking with Great Smoky Mountains National Park personnel in an attempt to determine what actions were taken on the fire, Mr. Jacobs interviewed four former wildland firefighters to gather information about how wildfires are typically managed.
Below is the beginning of the article. You can read the entire piece here.
Officials should have doused a 1.5-acre fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park days before high winds created a megafire that swept into Gatlinburg, former U.S. Forest Service firefighters said .
At the very least, said retired employees with almost 200 years of firefighting experience, officials in the National Park should have summoned every resource available when alerted Nov. 26 of the expected high winds.
“I’ve written for years that the best way to keep fires from becoming megafires is to attack them with overwhelming force, both on the ground and from the air,” said Bill Gabbert, who writes an online blog about wildland fires and aviation resources to battle wildland fires.
“People say that is very expensive, but it is not as expensive as losing 14 lives and $500 million in lost structures.”
Gabbert has written three articles on wildfiretoday.com about the Gatlinburg fires, providing technical data about fire conditions and aerial resources available to firefighters.
Four other former U.S. Forest Service firefighters agreed park officials didn’t pay attention to the severe drought, low humidity that provided a tinderbox for flames, available options to quell the slow-moving fire before winds made the flames uncontrollable and alarming weather forecasts.
Mr. Jacobs quoted the park’s Superintendent, Clay Jordan, as saying:
There was no way the fire could have been extinguished before the winds came.
For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.
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