Wildfires broke out in East Tennessee, due to arson. The fires progressed throughout East Tennessee because of an unusual drought. Keith Eugene Mann Franklin, age 49, was arrested Wednesday,Nov. 30, 2016. Currently, the charges against him could lead to a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As of Nov. 29, there were approximately 96 active wildfires in Tennessee.
The wildfires started on Chimney Tops mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The fire progressed and spread due to heavy winds that gusted up to approximately 87 miles per hour. Hundreds of businesses and homes were destroyed, one of which was a 16-story hotel.
On Nov. 23, at least four people were announced dead and 45 injured. Three days later, up to eight of the wildfires had been contained, but six counties still had multiple wildfires roaring.
Rescue teams called in The National Guard and many organizations from surrounding states to help. The National Guard used helicopters to spray water on the blaze.
Rain hit on Wednesday, Nov. 30, which slightly helped toward extinguishing the wildfires. Also on the 30th, seven people were announced dead and an unknown amount missing. A search and rescue team was sent out, along with the American Red Cross, to find and reunite families and offer aid to those in need.
There was a shred of good news when three people were rescued from an elevator at West Gate Resort, in Gatlinburg, after the power went out due to the wildfires and weather conditions.
People on the rescue team who drove through the affected areas stated: ‘“Everywhere you looked, there were fires everywhere. It was like driving into h*ll,’ said Rain Moore, 32, a lieutenant with the Sneedville Fire Department,” according to The New York Times.
Linda Monholland, a worker at Park View Inn, leaving her shift at 9:00 p.m on Monday, she walked out to see that she was surrounded by flames. She also made a similar comment that it was like she felt as though she had entered h*ll.
The weather prediction for the next few days indicated severe storms threatening lighting strikes were expected, which could potentially cause more fires.
Wildfires have devastated East Tennessee before, but this is the largest blaze seen in 100 years.
As of Friday, Dec. 2, at least 13 people were confirmed dead and at least 85 injured due to the fires. Many people who needed to evacuate never got a message on their cell phones to evacuate. The fire that caused 13 deaths is now being called the “perfect storm” by emergency officials.
As of Monday the death toll is at 14 found. On Wednesday, the evacuation in Gatlinburg will be over for families who live and work there but there will be a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. The town will be open to the public Friday, Dec. 9, at 7 a.m.
Coleman Bonner from Alabama, lost his job after referring to Gatlinburg residents as “mouth-breathing, toothless, Trump-suckin’ pond scum” around the time the wildfires started. The man is now being targeted on social media and is a person of interest.
Some of the things Bonner called residents were, mountain-dew chuggers, cousin humpers, and diabetics. He also felt it was funny that Gatlinburg was burning. “Good riddance, Gatlinburg,” he stated to Leada Gore at AL. When he visited the town during the fire, he said he felt it was like a cesspool of consumerism.
Wildfires that devastated East Tennessee in 2016, were due to arson during a drought. On Dec. 7, two juveniles were charged with arson.
By Marrissa K.
Edited by Cathy Milne
Alabama Media Group: Gatlinburg fire latest update: City reopens Friday; Great Smoky Mountain park status; what was destroyed?
Alabama Media Group: Gatlinburg fire latest update: Death toll 14; cause of wildfire investigated; some Christmas events canceled
The New York Times: Gatlinburg Wildfires Force Evacuations: “It Was Like Driving Into Hell”
KY3 TV: Death toll is 7; man is arrested for setting 2 wildfires in Smoky Mountains
The Washington Post: Death toll rises to 13 in Tennessee wildfires as grim search for survivors continues
Knoxville News-Sentinel: Authorities charge two teens in Gatlinburg wildfires
Image Courtesy of The Tennessee National Guard’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License