New: Residents and business owners near Gatlinburg allowed to return to their properties
Fire began on November 27 and spread to 17,000 acres
Two juveniles face charges of aggravated arson in connection with a deadly Tennessee wildfire that began in late November and spread to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, according to Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Additional charges are being considered, 4th District Attorney General James Dunn said, including the possibility of seeking a transfer to adult criminal court.
He said the youths were from Tennessee, but not from Sevier County, where the fires started. Neither their ages nor genders were released.
Fourteen people lost their lives in the fires and more than 175 more were injured, according to officials. Residents and visitors to the resort-heavy area were among the dead.
The so-called Chimney Tops and Cobbly Nob fires gnawed away more than 17,000 acres and 2,460 structures, scorching homes, cabins and churches along a fiery path through Sevier County.
Residents and business owners affected by the Gatlinburg fires were being allowed to return to their properties on a full-time basis Wednesday morning, according to a news release from the wildfire joint information center.
The area is a popular tourist destination in eastern Tennessee, home to the Dollywood amusement park and the resort town of Pigeon Forge.
Recent heavy rains helped extinguish much of the fire. As of Wednesday, the fire was 82% contained, fire officials reported.
“Even though the fire is not 100% contained, the areas opening to the public have been deemed safe,” a report on the InciWeb website said.
CNN’s Shawn Nottingham and Samira Said contributed to this report.