13 Dead, 11 ID'd In Sevier County Wildfires

Posted at 10:43 AM, Dec 02, 2016

The death toll in the Sevier County wildfires has risen to 13. Six of those victims have now been identified.

In a press conference Friday morning, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said one of the victims, identified as May Vance, died after suffering a heart attack due to smoke inhalation. 

The Medical Examiner confirmed the identities of the following victims:

  • John and Marilyn Tegler, age 71-70, of Canada
  • Jon and Janet Summers, both age 61, of Memphis
  • May Vance, age 75  
  • Alice Hagler, age 70
  • Bradley Phillips
  • Constance Reed and her two daughters, Chloe and Lilly
  • Rev. Ed Taylor

Waters also said the number of structures either damaged or destroyed has increased to at least 1,000.

Renters and home owners were given access to their properties at 10 a.m. to begin surveying with insurance assessors.

Governor Bill Haslam, Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Lamar Alexander were also in attendance and expressed their support.

Governor Haslam said 16 agencies are in the area and helping in multiple areas.  

Friday afternoon, more information was given in the second press conference of the day. Authorities released the identity of one of the victims who was killed -- 70-year-old Alice Hagler -- at that time.

They also reconfirmed 85 people had been treated at LaConte Medical Center, and they added they expected to have all areas in the city and county open to homeowners by noon Saturday.

"We're going to rise up," said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Warner. "We're going to bounce back for two reasons: because we're mountain tough and our faith in Jesus Christ."

Authorities said they were working out how to distribute monetary donations.

Officials said they hope to have major roadways reopened by Wednesday, December 7.

There were some tough questions asked of officials in Sevier County about the wildfires and evacuations.

Some people in the area said they just weren't warned that there was a need to evacuate.

The Sevier County EMA Director told the group the time stamp on the notification sent out to mobile devices was 9:04 p.m. to evacuate the city, and before that, local law enforcement began going door to door to start the evacuations.

There have been conflicting reports saying the alerts were not sent.

However, there were also issues mentioned when the alerts were allegedly sent, including power outages and problems with cell towers.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but has been believed to be human-caused. Anyone who was hiking in that area on Wednesday, November 23 has been asked to call a tip line with information they may have on the fire. That number is 1-888-653-0009.

At least 17,859 acres had burned inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.