State forester: Crews dealt with training issues, outdated technology during Sevier County wildfires

Photo from December 6, 2016 of the Lodge at Buckberry Creek after the Gatlinburg fires.

NASHVILLE (WATE) — Tennessee State Forester Jere Jeter said during a news conference Wednesday crews dealt with training issues and outdated technology during their response to the Gatlinburg and Sevier County wildfires.

Jeter said the department was going to increase training and provide more up-to-date cell phones to its employees that have access to Google Earth and other technology that will better help employees on the ground.

They’re also working to replace bulldozers and other equipment, along with installing GPS devices so they can get to the equipment and employees quickly if something happens, and also so they can know where equipment is should it be needed in an emergency.

Jeter said meetings have been ongoing to work on jurisdiction issues and they’re strengthening partnerships with local agencies, states and EMA groups. He also said it cost the Tennessee Department of Forestry around $2 million to fight the fires.

Ultimately, Jeter defended the department’s response to the fires.

WATE 6 On Your Side Reporter Laura Halm is in Nashville for the news conference. The Tennessee Forestry Department is also expected to release records from the wildfires.

This is a developing story. Refresh this page for updates.

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