Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Juveniles Charged with Arson in Wildfires That Killed 14

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Juveniles Charged with Arson in Wildfires That Killed 14

Article excerpt

Two juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with the East Tennessee wildfires that killed 14 people last week and left nearly 150 others injured, authorities said Wednesday. During an investigation, "information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a news release.

A petition was filed Wednesday in juvenile court charging the juveniles with aggravated arson, the TBI said.

Both were taken into custody Wednesday morning and are being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.

Additional charges "are being considered," District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said at a news conference in Sevierville, Tennessee. "Everything is on the table."

The suspects are Tennessee residents, Dunn said. No additional information about the youths was made available, including their age and gender.

"I understand that you have a lot of questions," Dunn told reporters. "However, the law does not allow for the disclosure of additional information at this time."

He added that the juveniles could be tried as adults.

The "Chimney Tops 2" fire was first reported Nov. 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, according to the National Park Service. The wildfire exploded on Nov. 28, as massive walls of flames spread down the mountains into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with shocking speed, according to those who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The fires that engulfed the two tourist towns outside the park and shut down one of the country's most popular natural attractions left more than 1,750 structures damaged or destroyed, most of them single-family residences. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres burned in the most-visited national park in the United States.

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller called the devastation "unfathomable."

Although wind gusts exceeding 60 mph caused the disaster to explode in Sevier County, fires had been brewing for months in this region. …

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