Panel to review fire's spread from Smokies to Tennessee city

AP News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2017 2:46 PM

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities are forming a team to investigate the massive fires that tore through a Tennessee tourist city late last year, killing 14 people.

The team will be made up of representatives from the Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a fire chief from a community not far from Gatlinburg, the Knoxville News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2k19vRT ) quoted park superintendent Cassius Cash as saying. He said he expects the team to arrive in the next week or so.

There has been some criticism of how Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials handled the fire, which started on 1.5 acres in a remote part of the park on Nov. 23 before drought conditions and high winds pushed it 5.5 miles over five days into Gatlinburg.

"We are really looking forward to having the opportunities to look back on the decisions that were made," Cash said. "The report will not be punitive in nature. It is an objective review so that we can look back and learn from it and apply that learning to other programs in our agency."

Dan Buckley, the National Park Service's Wildland Fire Branch chief, said he has not yet picked the team's members. He estimated the team's report would be released in mid-March.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com