By Nick Murray
As the smoke clears and authorities work to evaluate the damage done, the death toll in the historic Gatlinburg Fires continues to climb.
“At least 14 people are now confirmed to have died during the firestorm”, National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn said Sunday.
The fires began on November 28 when heavy winds topping 90 mph spread embers from a then 500 acre fire near the chimney tops in the Great Smoky Mountains to 14,000 acres. City officials are now allowing property owners and renters to return to their homes and businesses between 8am and 5pm. Officials now estimate 1684 structures have been damaged or destroyed by the fires, and at least 134 people have sustained injuries. Twenty three crews, 46 engines, six helicopters, five bulldozers and 713 total personnel are being employed to fight the inferno.
These fires are hitting close to home for people at Central. “We had a family condo in Gatlinburg that is completely gone now,” said junior Allyson Landry.