Note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Dec. 8.
Two juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with the deadly wildfires in Sevier County last week, authorities said Wednesday. The fires burned more than 17,000 acres around the Chimney Tops trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley. Fourteen people died, 176 were injured or made ill, and more than 2,400 structures were damaged or destroyed.
Local fire departments and law enforcement agencies responded to help fight the fires and provide search and rescue help, among other aid. The fire in the park, the most heavily visited in the United States, and the nearby tourist towns has been described as the largest in Tennessee in at least 100 years.
The charges announced Wednesday afternoon were filed after an investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; National Park Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF; and the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office. [Read more…]