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Published On: Thu, Dec 8th, 2016

Two teens arrested in connection with Tennessee’s deadly wildfires

Authorities have arrested two teenagers in connection with last week’s deadly wildfires. Officials held a news conference at the Sevier County Courthouse Wednesday, confirming that they have been charged with aggravated arson.

Jimmy Dunn, 4th Judicial District attorney general, spoke to the press, saying that the pair await a bond hearing in Juvenile Court and could be transferred to Criminal Court if prosecutors move to try them as adults.

“Everything is on the table,” Dunn said.

Dunn refused to give any details about the case, including the teens’ ages or genders, except that “They are not from Sevier County … they are residents of Tennessee.”

Photo/Skiddie2003 wikimedia commons

Photo/Skiddie2003 wikimedia commons

Sara Reynolds, a youth services officer in Sevier County Juvenile Court, wouldn’t provide a copy of the petition charging either teen, keeping their identities secret. State law typically denies public access to juvenile records, except in certain cases such as murder or rape. Arson isn’t on the list.

Those court records would become public if the case were transferred to Criminal Court.

“I understand that you have a lot of questions,” Dunn explained during the news conference. “However, the law does not allow for the disclosure of additional information at this time.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has operated a hotline to coordinate reports of people missing since last week’s firestorm that ravaged Gatlinburg and surrounding areas, killing 14 people and injuring nearly 150 others.

The flames damaged or destroyed more than 1,700 homes and businesses.

The National Park Service has said the fire that began on the Chimney Tops trail before spreading to Gatlinburg appeared to have been “human-caused.”

The NPS Investigative Branch Services, along with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has sought information from every person who hiked or knew someone who hiked in the area on Nov. 23, when the fire was first reported.

“I want to thank everyone who responded to the National Park Service’s tip line. The public was critical in responding to that tip line and giving the investigators something to work with,” said Steve Kloster, the park’s chief ranger.

“Our promise is that we’ll do every effort to help bring closure to those who have lost so much,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said.

The fires are believed to be Tennessee’s biggest in 100 years, according to WHB.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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