Federal Judge Refuses To Dismiss Lawsuit Over Deadly Fire At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against the National Park Service stemming from the deadly Chimney Tops 2 fire at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, holding that the park’s Fire Management Plan required that area residents be notified of the wildfire.

When the Chimney Tops 2 fire was reported atop one of the many ridges of the national park late in the day on November 23, 2016, it covered only about 1.5 acres and park crews, due to darkness and steep cliffs in the area, planned to attack it the next morning, Thanksgiving. At the time, no one knew how it started, but there had been a park-wide ban on campfires and grills due to atypically dry conditions caused by a long-running drought.

Hurricane-force winds on November 28 into November 29 blew the fire up into a conflagration that swept through nearby Gatlinburg, Tennessee, trapping many in their homes and destroying or damaging approximately 2,500 structures.

Officials later said the wildfires originated from multiple locations, including an arson fire set at Chimney Tops inside the park, and from downed power line ignitions throughout the county. Fueled by extreme winds and dry weather, the fire storm was blamed for 14 deaths and 190 injuries. In all, losses attributed to the fire have been estimated at $500 million.

Michael B. Reed, Brittany H. Hyre Anculle, and Brittany Adkins separately brought lawsuits against the Park Service, alleging that the agency was “negligent in failing to monitor the wildfire overnight, failing to comply with command structure requirements, failing to adhere to mandatory fire management policies and requirements, and failing to warn Park neighbors.”



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