Weekly Column: Sevier County
On Monday evening, the Gatlinburg community was hit hard by wildfires that spread from the Great Smoky Mountain National Parks into downtown Gatlinburg. The devastating fires burned more than 15,000 acres of Sevier County, and, as of Wednesday afternoon, claimed the lives of at least seven Tennesseans. Hundreds of people lost their homes, businesses, and livelihoods. On Tuesday afternoon I joined Governor Haslam, Superintendent Cash, Mayor Waters, Mayor Werner, City Manager Ogle, State Representatives Carr and Farmer, State Senator Overbey and emergency responders in Sevier County to assess the damage and work to ensure everything possible was being done to assist the relief and recovery efforts. My heart is heavy for Sevier County, and there’s no doubt they need our prayers as some residents discover catastrophic losses.
But I also have no doubt Gatlinburg will rebuild and continue to unite around those affected by this horrible tragedy. I am so grateful to the first responders – both locally and those who came from around the country to lend a hand – who undoubtedly saved many, many lives by their quick response. In the days, weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work with state and local officials to ensure Sevier Countians have timely access to any necessary resources available to them as they begin the long process of rebuilding and healing from this unimaginable loss. Tennesseans are resilient; we look out for each other. Now, more than ever, it’s important we hold on to our volunteer spirit and help our neighbors through this difficult time. Sevier County is in my prayers.