“Judge: Officials Failed to Update Public as Deadly Fire Engulfed Gatlinburg from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016,” News & Record
September 10, 2020
U.S. park officials have failed to show enough was done to keep the public updated as a deadly wildfire spread from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016, a judge ruled.
The decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer in Knoxville keeps lawsuits by survivors of the blaze on track for a potential trial, though the U.S. Justice Department can still appeal.
Greer denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case, writing that officials didn’t provide sufficient evidence to show they met the notification obligations under their own fire management plan. The fire killed 14 people and caused an estimated $2 billion in losses, including about 2,500 buildings that were damaged or destroyed.
The decision drew praise from a lead attorney in the lawsuit.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” plaintiffs attorney Ted Leopold said in a statement. “We can now focus on moving forward in this important litigation and working hard to bring justice to the Gatlinburg community.”