SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities on Wednesday charged two juveniles in an East Tennessee wildfire that killed 14 people and destroyed or damaged more than 1,700 buildings.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, local District Attorney General James Dunn and Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced charges at a news conference Wednesday, but released few other specifics about the juveniles or how the fires started.
Dunn said the juveniles face aggravated arson charges in the fire in the Chimney Tops area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Nov. 23. Amid hurricane-force winds, the fire spread to the Gatlinburg area early last week, causing widespread damage. They’re being held in the Sevier County juvenile detention center.
“Our promise is that we will do every effort to help bring closure to those who have lost so much,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn.
The juveniles are from Tennessee, but not Sevier County, where the fires spread. Otherwise, officials said state law prevents releasing more information about them.
The investigation is ongoing and more charges could come. It’s also possible that the case could be transferred to an adult criminal court, Dunn said.
The juveniles are entitled to a detention hearing within 72 hours in which a juvenile court judge will decide to hold them without bond, hold them with bond, or release them, Dunn said.
Dunn constantly said everything was “part of the investigation” when asked for details.
Asked if others could be charged in the fire, Dunn repeated that “everything’s on the table.”
“We don’t know,” he said.
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