Investigators: Gatlinburg wildfires were ‘human caused’

Investigators: Gatlinburg wildfires were ‘human caused’
Burned structures are seen from aboard a National Guard helicopter near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

The fires that have killed three people and burned nearly 15,000 acres in Gatlinburg, Tennessee were “human caused,” National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn confirmed Tuesday evening.

On Monday, strong winds and dry weather conditions caused the fires to spread much more rapidly than anticipated.  Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner told reporters, “People were basically running for their lives.” Werner’s home is one of hundreds that was destroyed in the fires.

Over 14,000 residents were forced to evacuate the area, and Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller confirmed the fires took the lives of three people in three separate locations.  Miller said on Tuesday they may find more victims when they are able to search all the areas extensively.

“We have not been able to get into all the areas,” he stated.

City officials have placed residents under an indefinite curfew that stretches from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as they attempt to gauge the damage left behind. Miller told reporters the winds have died down and the worst is over with now.

The mayor said, “We will rebuild, and we will remain the premier resort community that we are.”

“It will be OK,” he added.

The fires are still under investigation.

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