2 juveniles charged with starting deadly Sevier County fires

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn.  – Two juveniles were arrested and charged for their role in starting the devastating wildfire in Sevier County that killed more than a dozen people.

Authorities said the minors were taken into custody early Wednesday and face charges of aggravated arson. Additional charges are also being considered.

During a brief news conference, officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the juveniles do not live in Sevier County but are Tennessee residents. Information on their identities will not be released.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn (Courtesy: WATE)
TBI Director Mark Gwyn (Courtesy: WATE)

They remain in custody and will have a detention hearing within the next 72 hours. It will then be determined if they will be held with or without bond or released.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn offered his condolences to the victims of the deadly wildfire before making the announcement.

“We stand with you and are committed to making sure justice is served with this case,” he said. “We will do whatever we can to help bring closure.”

The investigation is ongoing and the TBI will continue to assist alongside other agencies.

(Courtesy: WATE)
(Courtesy: WATE)

“I can tell you, this investigation is active and ongoing and we still have a lot of work to do,” Gwyn added. “My promise is that we will do every effort to help bring closure to those who have lost so much.”

Fourteen people were killed and more than 130 others were injured in the wildfire that started in late November. Thousands of acres were also burned, and more than 1,780 structures were destroyed or damaged.

Fire crews from across the state, including here locally, assisted in battling the wildfires. Many crews have since returned home.

Gatlinburg is expected to open to the public on Friday for the first time since the fire ripped through the area.