TN Fire news conference 12/7/16 3pm ET:
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwynand announced that 2 juveniles were arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the fires. The Sevier County District 4th District Attorney General James Dunn said that because they are juveniles state law prevents them from releasing any information, including age and sex, on the 2 except that they are from TN but not Sevier County. There will be a detention hearing within 72 hours to determine if they are held with bond, without bond, or released pending trial.
The investigation is still ongoing. Because they are juvenile and because the investigation is ongoing, Dunn would not give any other information except to say "everything is on the table" as far as charges and/or moving the case to adult court and responded "it's part of the investigation" to almost all questions, meaning they will not comment on any aspect of the investigation or about the suspects at this time.
Also in attendance was Great Smoky Mountains National Park Chief Ranger Steve Kloster.
Official Update for the Chimney Tops 2 and Cobbly Nob Fires for 2016-12-7To date, there are 14 confirmed fatalities. Over 145 people sustained injuries. A total of 1753 structures have been damaged or destroyed. This number includes 1711 single family residences and 42 commercial properties.
Start Date: Nov 23 Size: 17,006 Containment: 64%
Start Date: Nov 28 Size: 819 Containment: 67%
To access Gatlinburg, it is important to follow check point protocols. There is only one check point access at East Parkway (Hwy. 321) at Glades Road and the Post Office. Be sure to bring valid forms of identification showing name and address of residence or business inside Gatlinburg. Officials will verify renters and lease holders, as needed.
Closed Trails: Chimney Tops Trail, Road Prong Trail, Cove Mountain Trail, Gatlinburg Trail, Huskey Gap Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail, Rough Creek Trail, Little River Trail, Cucumber Gap Trail, Jakes Creek Trail, Miry Ridge Trail, Goshen Prong Trail, Old Sugarlands Trail, Twin Creeks Trail, Bullhead
Be vigilant while driving; emergency vehicles and personnel may be working in areas open to the public.
Incident Summary: The Chimney Tops 2 Fire was reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at approximately 5:20 pm. The wildfire began burning in a remote location (Chimney Tops) of the park in steep terrain with vertical cliffs and narrow rocky ridges making access to the wildfire area difficult for firefighting efforts. On Monday, November 28th, the exceptional drought conditions and extreme winds caused the wildfire to grow rapidly, causing numerous new wildfire starts from embers carried miles away and downed powerlines in and adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The wildfire was determined to be human-caused and is currently under investigation.
Chimney Tops 2 fire did not increase in size yesterday and is estimated to be 17006 acres. Due to more accurate mapping, the Cobbly Nob fire is now estimated to be 819 acres, but there has been no actual growth in the fire size. Containment has increased to 64% on Chimney Tops 2 and is up to 67% on Cobbly Nob. Despite the rain, heat still exists within the fire perimeter. Smoke may be visible within the fire perimeter from time to time, and firefighters will continue to patrol and mop any hot spots that may be a threat to the containment lines or structures.
Today property owners, business owners, renters, and lease holders are being allowed to return to full-time occupancy beginning at 7:00 am through the East Parkway (Hwy. 321) entry point. A curfew will be in effect from 10:00 pm until 6:00 am both today and Thursday. Use caution when entering the burned area.
The City of Gatlinburg plans to reopen for business and to the general public on Friday, December 9 at 7:00 am. Major roadways are expected to be open, but some city roadways may remain closed to accommodate utility work.
Even though the fire is not 100% contained, the areas opening to the public have been deemed safe. The area will continue to be monitored and patrolled. Firefighters will continue to provide structure protection and will maintain a presence in these areas until the fire is 100% contained.
Though there is little or no active fire evident at this time, everyone should use caution when entering the burned area. Be prepared for other hazards that may be present on your property. These include, but are not limited to: hazards trees, footing, parking, collapse of structural material, and utilities. We will continue to mop up and patrol and provide for public and firefighter safety. For detailed information on safely returning to your property, please follow us on our Facebook, website, or call us (information above).
Chimney Tops 2
Incident Resources: 18 hand crews, 35 engines, 3 helicopters, 1 dozers, 1 air attack, 593 total personnel
Weather: Low pressure continues tracking across the area as high pressure prepares to build into the area thru today. Rain showers yesterday resulted in 0.8 inches of rain in the fire area. The light intensity showers allowed much of the rain to soak into the soil instead of running off. High pressure will be over the region briefly today with a fast moving frontal boundary system that will cross the area tonight and Thursday morning. This system will allow much colder air into the fire area for Thursday night into Saturday.
Road and Trail Closure Status: The National Park is closed from the Gatlinburg Entrance to Smokemont near Oconaluftee (US 441, Newfound Gap) and Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Townsend. The Gatlinburg By-Pass and Cliff Branch are also closed. The Spur between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is open from Pigeon Forge to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. There is no access to Wiley Oakley or Westgate from the Spur.