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UT to publish oral histories of Gatlinburg Wildfires

The Gatlinburg Wildfires claimed the lives of 14 people and injured more than 200.
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 12:30 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The University of Tennessee will soon publish a project that features 140 audio and video interviews of individuals who experienced the tragic Gatlinburg Wildfires, a release stated.

“For future generations, I think it’s really important for them to understand that in times of trouble, people do come together,” said Fran Day, of the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, recalling the Chimney Tops 2 wildfires that in 2016 ravaged the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding communities. Her video-recorded comments are part of an oral history project undertaken by the University of Tennessee Libraries in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg and the Anna Porter Public Library in Gatlinburg.

Rising from the Ashes: The Chimney Tops 2 Wildfires Oral History Project has been worked on for the past few years. With the fifth anniversary of the wildfires occurring on Nov. 28, all interviews will be available on the UT Libraries website.

“This project documents one of the most momentous events in modern Tennessee history—in the voices of those who lived it,” said Steve Smith, dean of the Libraries. “The collected stories document more than tragedy, however; they testify to the resilience of the human spirit. Our team is honored to help preserve these stories for history, study, learning, and research.”

The Gatlinburg Wildfires claimed the lives of 14 people and injured more than 200. Flames destroyed nearly 2,500 homes and left an estimated $2 billion in damages. More than 11,000 acres were burned inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; more than 17,000 acres were burned throughout the path of the fire.

“The oral histories include interviews with those who lost homes and businesses, first responders, recovery specialists and representatives from charitable and volunteer organizations, government officials, fire and forestry experts, scientists, artists, lawyers, journalists, clergy, health care and mental health professionals, educators, and many others,” a spokesperson said.

UT Libraries also announced that it is engaged in a grant project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The project will hope to use art to raise awareness of the wildfires and the emotional and environmental scars left in their wake.

For more information, visit the libraries’ Speaking Volumes blog.

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