Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountains to reopen after fatal wildfires

Posted: 6:04 AM, Dec 09, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-09 06:04:12-05

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are reopening to the public Friday after wildfires that caused 14 deaths and damaged about 2,500 buildings.

Most of the main tourist area in Gatlinburg was spared by the fires that were whipped into the city by hurricane-force winds the night of Nov. 28, and officials are keen for people to return to the city with a population of less than 4,000 that draws more than 11 million visitors a year.

The Smokies are the country’s most-visited national park, and Superintendent Cassius Cash says the days following the fires are “the most challenging and emotional days our community has likely ever had to endure.”

Prosecutors have charged two juveniles with starting fires within the park that later spread.