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Officials defend response to deadly Tennessee wildfire

8 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Friday, December 02 2016 Dec 2, 2016 December 02, 2016 11:56 AM December 02, 2016 in News
Source: Associated Press

GATLINBURG - Officials are defending their response to wildfires in Tennessee that killed 13 people.

In response to reporters' questions Friday, John Matthews with the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency said a text alert telling people to evacuate went out around 9 p.m. Monday to anyone with a mobile device connected to a cell tower in the city. By that time, wildfires were raging in the area.

Matthews said some people did not receive the message due to power outages and loss of cellphone reception.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said they will completely evaluate that system and improve it.

Asked about the overall response, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said they didn't drop the ball. He said the appropriate amount of resources was put in the area, including four helicopters dropping water Sunday. He said the wind came in earlier than forecast.

Asked about why they didn't evacuate earlier, Waters said the reporter didn't know the area and he wasn't getting into "Monday morning quarterbacking."

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