Arson charges dropped in wildfire case

Laura Christensen
July 2, 2017

That's according to the district attorney in Sevier County, who announced Friday that he has dropped charges against the two juveniles suspected of starting a fire in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Along with the wind, multiple downed power lines caused other ignition points in the Gatlinburg area, complicating the case.

Therefore, he said, he can't prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that actions of the two juveniles led to the devastation in the mountain town of Gatlinburg.

The Gatlinburg wildfires killed 14 people and damaged thousands of structures. Without those winds, Dunn said, "it is highly unlikely and improbable that the Chimney Tops 2 fire would have left the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and reached Gatlinburg". They said crews had worked tirelessly along with members of the ATF and National Parks Service to investigate the case.

Dunn said the state does not have jurisdiction in the case since the fire started inside the national park. Eleven other National Park Service on behalf of the Federal Government.

State charges dropped in deadly Sevier County fire disaster
Arson charges dropped for teens accused of setting Gatlinburg fires

Dunn, who said his office consulted with multiple agencies and wildfire experts, said his office then began exploring jurisdictional issues regarding criminal prosecutions on federal land.

An attorney for one of the teens held a news conference to explain why the charges were dropped. That means the teens could be charged federally since the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is federal property.

Based upon these findings, the State has no other option but to dismiss the charges now pending in state court as there is no subject matter jurisdiction that would allow the state court to take any action.

The dismissal meant the teens can not no longer be charged by the state.

Isaacs said the decision should mean fire victims are closer to getting answers to their questions - many of which had been styimed after Dunn asked local, state and federal offices to withhold documents that could be used in the investigation.

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