SEVIERVILLE — Authorities have made two arrests — both teenagers — in last week’s deadly wildfires.
Authorities made the announcement Wednesday during an afternoon news conference at the Sevier County Courthouse.
The teens remain in custody in Sevier County, charged with aggravated arson, said Jimmy Dunn, 4th Judicial District attorney general. They 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.
He 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.”
The park lies within federal jurisdiction, but federal prosecutors will allow Dunn to prosecute the case in state court.
Sara Reynolds, a youth services officer in Sevier County Juvenile Court, wouldn’t provide a copy of the petition charging either teen. State law typically denies public access to juvenile records, except in certain cases such as murder or rape. Aggravated arson isn’t on the list.
Those court records would become public if the case were transferred to Criminal Court.
Dunn said the two suspects will have a detention hearing “within the next 72 hours.” The hearing will determine if the two will be held without bond, with bond or released.
Agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have worked around the clock since last week on the case.
“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 TBI 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 more than 175 others. The flames damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 homes and businesses.
The National Park Service has said the fire that began on the Chimney Tops trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before spreading to Gatlinburg appeared to have been “human-caused.” The NPS Investigative Branch Services, along with the ATF, 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 range
More on the Fires…HERE