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Prosecutors drop state charges against juveniles accused of starting deadly Gatlinburg wildfires

Prosecutors drop state charges against juveniles accused of starting deadly Gatlinburg wildfires”

In a shocking turn of events Friday, state charges were dismissed against two juveniles accused of starting the Tennessee's largest and deadliest wildfire this century near the tourist town of Gatlinburg.

"But for the winds that reached speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, it is highly unlikely and improbable that the Chimney Tops II fire would have left the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and reached Gatlinburg", District Attorney James Dunn said in a statement.

The unidentified juveniles were originally charged with aggravated arson.

"My client and the other juvenile, based on the proof and evidence, did not cause the death and devastation in Gatlinburg".

In addition, the state feels it is not within their jurisdiction to prosecute crimes within Great Smoky Mountains National Park-any prosecution for criminal conduct must be initiated by the federal government.

The fire, which killed 13 people and caused millions upon millions in damages, began in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as the Chimney Tops on November 23. He cited the "unprecedented, unexpected and unforeseeable wind event" that occurred five days after the Chimney Tops fire, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel and other national reports. The juveniles are from Tennessee, but not Sevier County, where the fires spread, Dunn has said.

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Also at that press conference, the chief ranger for the park said that U.S. Attorney deferred prosecution of the case.

Dunn's office thanked the hundreds of firefighters and police officers for the bravery and courage in fighting the fires.

State, federal and local government agencies had denied requests for months because of the ongoing case, but with Dunn's announcement Friday they should no longer be under those constraints.

"I think people aren't looking for scapegoats, theyr'e looking for answers", Isaccs said.

The officials said they are working with legal counsel to review and release information in response to the "voluminous records requests" they have received.



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