Gatlinburg Fire | Nashville Public Radio

Gatlinburg Fire

Chas Sisk / WPLN

The state agency responsible for fighting wildfires is defending its handling of the blazes that destroyed more than 2,000 structures in Sevier County last year.

The comments from the Tennessee Division of Forestry comes as officials are finally releasing records about the catastrophe, which caused $1 billion dollars in damage and claimed 14 lives.

The wildfires swept through Gatlinburg shortly after Thanksgiving. Many people were caught by surprise, and local officials have struggled to explain why the resort area wasn't evacuated before the fires became a threat.

TN Photo Services

Tennessee's governor says there's no reason the review process of the Gatlinburg wildfires should be anything but open and transparent. This comes after the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency lost the recordings of all calls from the night the fire started.

Steve Harwood via Flickr

Blame the winds for the destructive wildfire that killed 14 people in Gatlinburg last fall.

That's according to the district attorney in Sevier County, who announced Friday that he has dropped charges against the two juveniles suspected of starting a fire in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Tennessee library and archives
Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is now addressing one of the ripple effects of the Gatlinburg wildfires: the loss of vital records and family papers.

Gatlinburg fire
Courtesy of Michael Luciano

By now, his wildfire escape has been viewed by millions. And Michael Luciano, of Gatlinburg, is very aware he’s developed a following for his ongoing Facebook video dispatches.

YouTube.com

Officials in Gatlinburg have been begging visitors to return. Now they'll see if that happens.

The city's downtown reopens Friday, 10 days after the wildfire that stunned the region. The fire destroyed 1,800 structures and killed 14 people. Many worry it will hinder the biggest economic driver in the area: tourism.

Gatlinburg fire
Courtesy of Gov. Bill Haslam

Two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson Wednesday in connection with fatal wildfires in East Tennessee. Authorities announced the break in their case at an afternoon news conference and said additional charges could follow.

Emily Siner / WPLN

Weddings are big business in Gatlinburg. In fact, by some estimates, this tiny resort town is second only to Las Vegas for destination weddings. The wildfires that killed 14 people and damaged 1,700 structures also destroyed one of Gatlinburg's matrimonial icons: Cupid's Chapel of Love.

Gatlinburg fire Summers family
Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

Update: 12/5/16 at 7:45 a.m.

On Sunday, another death was attributed to the fire, bringing the death toll to 14. Smoky Mountain National Park officials say 81-year-old Elaine Brown was fleeing the fire when she suffered a "medical event" that led to a motor vehicle accident. 

Mark Nagi / TN Department of Transportation

Come back soon.

That's the message from officials in Gatlinburg, even as they're still working to put out the fires that have ravaged the city.

The invitation shows just how vital tourism is to the area.

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