Gatlinburg still rebuilding 3 years after wildfires

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A lawsuit brought against the Federal Government seeks at least $150 million dollars to cover claims related to the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires.

More than forty insurance companies brought the suit against the government based on the claim that National Park Service employees were negligent during the fires that hit Gatlinburg on November 23, 2016 in the Chimney Tops area. Fourteen-thousand people were evacuated from Sevier County on November 28.

Fourteen people died as a result of the fires.

According to the suit, the "USA failed to respond to Plaintiffs claims for damages, much less resolve Plaintiffs' claims for damages within the permitted six month period."

One man, Michael Reed, lost his wife and two daughters in the fires. Reed filed a separate suit against the NPS, claiming that they "knew that conditions
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were ripe for a fire disaster."

Two teens were originally charged in connection to starting the fire, but charges were eventually dropped. Local attorney Greg Isaacs represented one of the accused and told WVLT News that the case was one of the most complex juvenile prosecutions in the state of Tennessee. Isaacs said, "My client and the other juvenile, based on the proof and evidence, did not cause the death and devastation in Gatlinburg, period."

Experts said naturally-caused wildfires could nearly double in the Smokies in the coming years, and fire season will become longer and more intense.

Copyright 2019 WVLT News. All rights reserved.