Many react with anger, frustration to dropped arson charges in Gatlinburg wildfire


Many react with anger, frustration to dropped arson charges in Gatlinburg wildfire

 
30 June 2017

published byhttp://www.knoxnews.com


USA –  Community reaction to prosecutors dropping arson charges against two teens in the Gatlinburg wildfire was swift Friday afternoon, with many expressing frustration and anger.

Genie Brabham moved to Gatlinburg from Louisiana after her home was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. When she heard the news Friday, she said she was numb.

“How do you teach young adults a lesson by letting them go after killing 14 people and disrupting all our lives by destroying everything I own, including my two cats? … They’re not little bitty kids,” she said.

“I lost everything I ever owned. I can never get it back. … I don’t understand the whole thing. There’s no compassion here. … I just don’t get it. I don’t know.”

Erik Cooper helped people escape the fires and is now being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the teenagers’ charges should come only from the damage done to Chimney Tops and not be related to the loss of life and $1 billion in damage.

“It’s not the responsibly of the kids,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the national park — the continued loss of life, the damage of structures and property is a direct result of (the) city of Gatlinburg and Sevier County not preparing for the fire.

“We could’ve prepared ourselves like many communities that face wildfires every year that don’t have any loss of life. … Instead, the lack of accountability, responsibility and preparation caused us to suffer the losses we suffer,” he said.

Michael Reed lost his wife, Constance, and daughters Chloe and Lily to the Nov. 28 wildfire. They were three of 14 who died in the wildfire.

In December Reed penned a letter of forgiveness to the juvenile boys charged with arson. However, when asked for his reaction Friday to the charges being dropped, he declined to comment.

Karyssa Steele’s grandmother, Pam Johnson, was killed in the fires. Steele told the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee on Friday that she broke down in tears when she heard the news of the charges being dropped.

“It’s very heartbreaking not being able to have justice, to know that these teens are getting away with this,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “They can’t even imagine what it was like for everyone to go through this tragedy. People lost their homes, but more importantly, people lost their lives.

“There will always be this emptiness inside me, because I lost not only my Nana, but she was also my best friend,” she said. “I was able to get some closure, but after hearing all the charges have been dropped makes me angry. I just hope something like this never happens again.”

Dinah Bays didn’t lose anything in the fire, but has walked with friends and neighbors who have. She said Friday’s announcement creates more questions than it provides answers.

“I’m mad. I’m mad at these sweet people, (we) have sat here thinking we were closer to thinking we were close to ending this, and wow,” she said. “Who knew and how long did they know it was going to come to this?”

Marsha Crownover lost her cousins Jon and Janet Summers of Memphis in the fire. The couple’s three children — Wesley Summers, his twin, Jared, and their older brother Branson Summers — were rescued and taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where they spent time recovering from severe burns and smoke inhalation.

The brothers, all in their early 20s, live in Nashville and continue to heal.

“Nothing can bring back Jon and Janet Summers,” said Crownover, who also lives in Nashville. “However, I do hope that in the future, all involved will learn from all the mistakes and errors that were made, so that nothing even close to this ever happens again. It’s a complete tragedy.”

Vikki Bolen, 37, and Scott Hudson, 38, escaped the fires with their lives and only the clothes on their back. The engaged couple, who live in St. Petersburg, Fla., expressed shock and hurt after learning prosecutors dismissed the charges.

“We lost our cabin and our belongings in the fire and are still waiting on the insurance money,” Bolen said, recalling the pair running barefoot through the woods away from flames that overtook her family’s cabin on Raccoon Ridge Road.

“All those people, animals and wildfire and nothing. No charges. We’re angry.”

The Nov. 28 wildfire spread quickly, fueled by high winds, and caused damage to more than 2,400 properties, including apartments, single-family homes, rental cabins, restaurants and other businesses.

The Anderson County boys, ages 15 and 17, were hiking on the Chimney Tops trail in the park Nov. 23 and tossing lit matches onto the ground around the trail, and brush caught fire. The two continued hiking down the trail. A fellow hiker with a Go-Pro happened to catch footage of them with smoke in the background. He didn’t know it would turn out to be important.

Ultimately, the teens were held responsible for what officials say was the state’s deadliest wildfire in a century. On Friday it was announced the charges were dropped.

Gatlinburg is still working to bring back tourism dollars that were lost in the wildfire’s aftermath, and many in the city are still working to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives.

The forest fire, which started on the night of June 24 and still smoldering in Spain’s southwestern region of Huelva, burned a total of 8,486 hectares, the Andalusian Regional Government said on Wednesday. Environmental spokesman for Andalusia, Jose Fiscal, confirmed the damage on his Twitter account. Over 2,000 people had had to be evacuated from hotels and campsites on the perimeter of the fire, he said. He added that the perimeter established around the fire was actually 10,900 hectares, but within that perimeter, 2,414 hectares of woodland were still intact. The fire damaged two protected areas: 6,761 hectares of Donana National Park, which has UNESCO protected status and is home to around 400 different species such as the threatened Iberian Lynx and Iberian Eagle, and 17 hectares of Laguna de Palos y Madres Nature Park. The Andalusian government believed that had it not been for the work of fire fighters, who at the height of the blaze numbered around 500, the damage would have been far worse for the 43,225 hectares of woods and scrubland. According to the regional government, temperatures were around 40 degrees Celsius when the fire began, with a wind-speed of between 30 and 40 km per hour (km/h) and gusts of up to 90 km/h at night, which helped propagate the flames and made it impossible to use aircraft or helicopters to fight the fire. A total of 50 firemen remain in the zone to continue the work of damping down and to ensure there are no flare ups, while investigations continue into the cause of the blaze. Authorities have not ruled out a human cause.
Read full text at:http://eng.belta.by/society/view/spanish-forest-fire-burns-over-8400-hectares-in-and-around-national-park-102857-2017/
If you use BelTA’s materials, you must credit us with a hyperlink to eng.belta.by.Tropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.

Read more at:https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCpTropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.

Read more at:https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCp


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