Death Toll Rises To 11 In Sevier Co. Wildfires

Posted at 11:09 AM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-02 06:44:41-05

A total of 11 people have died and more than 400 structures have either been damaged or destroyed by wildfires in Sevier County and 300 damaged or destroyed in the city of Gatlinburg.

Officials held another media briefing Thursday morning and said the death toll has risen to 10 victims. Three more bodies were recovered Thursday.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials reported that the death toll rose to 11. Officials said they could not confirm any identities at this time. 

However, family members have identified Alice Hagler as one of the victims.

The number of people treated for injuries has grown from 74 to 80 some of whom have already been discharged from the hospital.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation designated a hotline ( 1-800-TBI-FIND or 1-800-824-3463) to report any missing persons. Since then, they're received more than 100 calls, with agents pursuing 70 of those as leads. 

As a result officials said they have since found "a significant number" of those missing people.

All roads were expected to be reopened for property and business owners except for three - Beach Branch Road, Walker Trail Road Wiley Oakley Road. 

The owners would have to provide proof of ownership or residency. Officials urged them to use caution, since the properties could still be dangerous in regards to downed power lines or mudslides.

Officials hope to open up the main Parkway and River Road to the public on Wednesday. From there, their goal is to begin the process of opening side streets. 

Other areas, including Wiley Oakley Drive in the North Chalet area, West Gate, Beech Branch and Walker Trail remained closed to the public.  

More than 17,000 acres have been burned within the county. A website has been created to give people a look at the property burned by the fire.

Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and TBI are working with the National Parks Service to investigate the cause of the fire.

An official with the National Parks Service said the wildfire was human caused, but downed power lines sparked additional fires. The public was urged not to become complacent by the recent heavy rains that moved through the area. 

For locals who have been displaced or lost their jobs, insurance questions can be answered at Boyd’s Bear in Pigeon Forge. 

The Dollywood Foundation has also set up the My People Fund to provide $1,000 a month to residents in Sevier County who lost their homes.