On November 23, 2016, fire caught in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States, eventually spreading to over 17,000 acres and leading to the death of fourteen people.
Two teenage boys caught on video tossing matches and leaving a smoking brush were blamed for the start of the fire, but charges were dropped just two days ago, June 30, 2017 (source) for various reasons including because no direct link can be made between their actions and the wildfire; authorities let the fire burn rather than putting it out AND failed to notify residents and delayed evacuations; because no one could have predicted the hurricane like winds which spread the fire out of control days after it started, and because prosecutors have no jurisdiction to file charges for crimes allegedly committed in a federally owned National Park.
The fire spread to the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge where it burned more than 2400 buildings. During our vacation last month in that area we didn’t see but a few burned out buildings. In such a short period of time, the towns have done a miraculous job of rebuilding.
Some scenes were somber, however, such as this abandoned motel whose pool was dry and whose marquee sign read: “Pray for our town.”
Other buildings were not even recognizable for what they once were.
And up in the mountains more were left burned out and abandoned.