Gatlinburg, Sevier County disagree with notion that wildfire possibility is ‘new normal’

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

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Officials with the City of Gatlinburg and Seiver County issued a statement Friday saying they disagree with the notion put forth in the National Park Service review of the devastating Chimney Tops 2 fire that the possibility of large scale wildfires should be considered the “new normal.”

Previous story: National Park releases Chimney Tops 2 fire review report

The joint statement says the report is thorough and helps clarify the events that led up to the firestorm, as well as gives great recommendations that they dovetail with emergency management improvements already in the works.

However, they disagree with the characterization that fires of that magnitude are the “new normal.” They say the fire was an unprecedented event caused by a “perfect storm” of extreme drought, hurricane-force winds and arson. They say while they can’t know for certain if anything like that will happen again, they are committed to continue cooperation with other agencies to protect citizens and visitors from any future natural disaster.

Full statement:

Officials with Sevier County and the City of Gatlinburg have studied the Chimney Tops 2 Fire Review as conducted by the National Park Service.  The report is extremely thorough and helps to clarify the events leading up to the firestorm of November 28th, 2016.  The report’s recommendations to strengthen the management and response to future wildfires within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are excellent and dovetail with many of the emergency management improvements currently being implemented by Sevier County and the City of Gatlinburg.  We look forward to working with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to implement these recommendations and others that will be detailed in our separate after-action report.

We strongly disagree, however, with the characterization made in the Chimney Tops 2 Fire Review that fires of this magnitude are a “new norm” for our region.  As stated in the report and by members of the review team, this fire was an unprecedented event caused by a “perfect storm” of extreme drought, hurricane-force winds, and arson. It was among the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history and no fire of this proportion has ever occurred in our region.  Although we can’t know for certain  whether an event  of this  degree  will  happen again,   we are committed to  continued cooperation among the county, cities, National Park Service, and local and state agencies to protect our citizens and visitors from any future natural disaster should it occur.

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