Early indication is Gatlinburg fires caused by human
GATLINBURG,, Tenn. (WZTV) -Officials in Gatlinburg and Sevier County confirmed a fourth death from wildfires, adding 45 have been treated for fire injuries and one firefighter has suffered minor injuries.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller says there were eight new fires overnight which were mostly brush fires. There was also one additional structure fire. Crews continue to monitor the situation as fires can continue to smolder despite rainfall. Although the rainfall has been helpful, it also poses new concerns for National Guard, law enforcement and the over 200 firefighters on the ground. Chief Miller stated he is concerned with potential mud slides and rock slides. Crews have been forced to re-clear some areas due to the earth shifting from rainfall.
A fourth victim from the fires was also found on Wednesday morning at the Travelers Motel on Highway 321. The three previous victims were found on Tuesday in the North Chalet Village area. 45 people have been treated for fire injuries and one firefighter was treated for minor injuries overnight. Chief Miller stated that in addition to the physical safety of firefighters, he also remains concerned about their mental health. Chaplains and counselors have been checking on crews and speaking with not just firefighters, but everyone affected by the wildfires.
Despite the additional injuries and death reported, there has been progress in other areas. Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters says residents and visitors being sheltered dropped from 2,000 on Tuesday to just 300 on Wednesday. Although roads in the City of Gatlinburg remain closed, assessments will be taken throughout the day in hopes of re-opening some of the roads. Currently it has been determined it is not safe enough for residents to return to their homes and check on the structures. A curfew will also remain in place for the city.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to help with reports of missing persons connected to the East Tennessee wildfires. Anyone needing to report a missing person is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
A representative with the National Park Service added they are investigating the cause of the fires and early indications are the fire is likely caused by a human. It is unclear if the fire was possibly started in the area or caused from a previous wildfire which spread to Sevier County.