SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – Some of the first public records on the response to the Gatlinburg wildfires were released on Wednesday. Agencies told WATE 6 On Your Side for months they could not give out any information because of the criminal investigation into the two teens. Those charges were dropped against those two on Friday. Sevierville police and fire officials gave us hundreds of pages, as well as new video, on the actions first responders took November 28th.
The Sevierville Police Department released dash cam video on Wednesday that gave a closer perspective of the firestorm taking over Gatlinburg. Some more insight into what unfolded that night came when the City of Sevierville released hundreds of pages that detailed a timeline of the emergency response on November 28.
Among those documents was a time log from the Sevier County E-911 Dispatch.
The report said a staging area was set up at 12:12 p.m. in downtown Gatlinburg. Later on, it said at 1:36 p.m. the Red Cross was asked to activate a shelter for voluntary evacuees from the Mynatt Park area. The log said at 3:12 p.m., the National Weather Service reported gusts will reach 50 miles per hour in higher elevations.
Less than one hour later, at 4:07 p.m., the log said the National Weather Service noted winds would reach up to 65 miles per hour. At this time, dispatch said fire was one mile from Mynatt Park. At 6:06 p.m., the log said the fire was in the city of Gatlinburg.
WATE 6 On Your Side also combed through pages of text messages between Sevierville Fire Chief Matt Henderson,and Kevin Lauer, a fire management consultant with University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service, or UTCTAS.
Chief Henderson texted Lauer around 12:30 p.m. on November 28 saying, “It’s going to get bad before it gets better with the forecast.” Before 3 p.m., he said the Sevierville Fire Department had sent an engine up to help.
Later on, Lauer said Jefferson County had deployed units. He sent that before 6:30 p.m. Between that time and 10:45 p.m., Chief Henderson wrote, “6 to 8 structures with more to come. Ski Mtn. Has just kicked off.” Then, he wrote there was an exterior fire on Park Vista.
The wildfires left 14 people dead and caused more than a billion dollars in damage.