Great Smoky Mountains National Park will receive a $2.5 million upgrade to its radio communications systems in response to a fire in Tennessee that contributed to 14 deaths and millions of dollars of damage in November.
The National Park Service announced the improvements before Thursday's scheduled release of an independent report about the fire that started in the park and was blown several miles to the Gatlinburg area by hurricane-force winds. The fire merged with others, causing death and destruction.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the fire resulted from unusual and unexpected conditions.
— Chris Conte (@NC5_ChrisConte) August 31, 2017
“We see this report on the Chimney Tops 2 Fire as the first steps of a journey that will help us institutionalize the lessons learned from the tragic Sevier County fires,” said National Park Service Fire and Aviation Division Chief Bill Kaage. “The review report is only the beginning of a longer process.”
The Park Service says it also will issue seven neighboring fire departments portable radios and protective equipment, and will try to actively remove dead and dying trees and other fuels for fire.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander released the following statement:
“The fire that swept through Sevier County last November was heartbreaking, and I could not be more impressed and thankful for the hard work and bravery of our firefighters, police, and other first responders, and local, state and federal officials, who saved lives and have helped the area rebuild and recover.
The bottom line is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was not prepared for something this unprecedented. The review makes several useful recommendations to be better prepared for fires in the future, however the report also finds that many of those changes could not have prevented the tragedy that occurred in November 2016. Going forward, we will have to be prepared for fires we’ve never seen before in this part of the country.”
Click here to read the full report.