Tennessee Forestry Chief Lauds Firefighters

Official says firefighters did all they could to fight wildfires

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Although Tennessee’s top forestry official said he regrets the loss of lives and property in last year’s wildfires, he argued Wednesday that firefighters did as much as they could to contain the blaze.

The November fire started in the remote Chimney Tops area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was carried by strong winds into the vacation town of Gatlinburg, killing 14 people and tearing through thousands of homes and businesses.

Many residents were caught off guard by the rapidly approaching flames.

State Forester Jere Jeter said at a press conference that in response to the experience fighting fires during a prolonged drought, his agency is ramping up training and replacing outdated mobile phones to ensure firefighters have access to online maps. But Jeter told reporters that he doesn’t think extra training would have changed the outcome of the Gatlinburg fire.

“I don’t know that it would have made any difference in these conditions,” Jeter said. “Y