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Gatlinburg Wildfires Caused $500M In Damage, Officials Estimate.

The deadly wildfires in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains area near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, caused an estimated $500 million in damage, local officials said Tuesday. The blaze claimed the lives of 14 people.

Firefighters ( contained the blaze 100 percent and authorities are now focusing on rebuilding efforts. The fire damaged more than 2,400 buildings, including over 2,100 homes and nearly 60 businesses in the Gatlinburg area, officials said. Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner himself ( reportedly lost his home , two dogs and all seven of the condominium buildings he owned.

The fire is reported to have started on Nov. 23 in the Chimney Tops area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spread into Gatlinburg. The town officially reopened to the public Friday.

"It was a great sight, a beautiful sight, to see this weekend our streets once again filled with visitors and locals alike," Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle said, according to ( the Associated Press (AP).

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan said extreme wind conditions affected the rescue operations.

"First, we believe there was no way we could have controlled the fire prior to the wind event," Jordan said. "And second, the reality is that we believe that no number of firefighters or fire engines could have stopped the spread of the fire in such extreme wind conditions."

Two juveniles have been ( charged with aggravated arson in connection with the wildfires. According to initial investigation, "two juveniles allegedly started the fire." They were held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center. Their identities have not been released due to their age, according to local District Attorney James Dunn.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:1U6TN
Date:Dec 14, 2016
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