Authorities arrested and charged two teens in connection with the wildfires, reports KARE 11. These fires were responsible for killing 14 and injuring over 130 people. The property damage for these wildfires is excessive, with homes, businesses, and expensive resorts destroyed.
So far, the teens are charged with aggravated arson, but they may face more charges later. They are held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center until trial.
How the Teens Were Found
During their investigation, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation gathered information that led them to the two teens. US News reports that both were charged, but the investigation is still active and has not wrapped up.
The TBI team is working with the National Park Service as well as the ATF team to gather evidence.
The devastation from these fires is dramatic. In addition to those that perished in the flames and smoke, there was more than 2400 homes and buildings destroyed by the fire. Additional charges are being considered by the prosecution for the two teens, reports US News.
Juveniles Could be Charged and Tried as Adults
Right now, prosecutors are considering trying the two teens as adults, says NPR.
The minors started the fire on November 23rd, per the TBI’s official statement.
Because the area was riddled with drought and had dry brush, the fire caught quickly and spread rapidly. It was able to sweep through and reach the town of Gatlinburg by November 28th.
Already there have been 14000 people evacuated and while they were able to return to their home, there was not much to return home to for most.
No information has been released on the two teens that were arrested. Their ages and genders have not been released, but it was stated that the two were from Tennessee.
Already countless hours of investigation have been underway finding evidence to help convict the teens and ensure there are no other parties involved in the crime. Very little information has been released on the two suspects so far, but it is clear they are not from Sevier County; instead, they are just being held there.
The community feels that the minors should be held responsible for the damages both criminally and civilly. Some residents are still missing after the fires ripped through small towns; therefore, the death count could increase as the recovery process completes.
Residents of Gatlinburg were able to return home after the fire was fully extinguished, but they would only have limited access for the next few days to retrieve items (if any were still intact).
It is rare for a case to move from juvenile court to adult court, but in this instance, the amount of damage and deaths associated with the crime could warrant such a transfer.