Charges dropped against teenagers in deadly 2016 Gatlinburg wildfire

There are reports coming out of Tennessee tonight that arson charges filed against two teenagers in the deadly Gatlinburg wildfire in 2016 have been dropped.

Fox 13 Memphis is reporting that the district attorney has filed an order to dismiss the charges against the Anderson County teenagers who had been blamed as being responsible for starting the wildfire.

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The accused, 15 and 17 years old, were charged with aggravated arson stemming from the Chimney Tops fire, which spread into the Smoky Mountains, into Sevier County and into Gatlinburg.

Fourteen people were killed and 200 more were injured.

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The fire was the state’s deadliest in more than a century.

Defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs, at a news conference Friday, said the state can’t prove that the horseplay of the boys sparked a fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that caused the deadly wildfires in Gatlinburg five days later.

"My client and the other juvenile, based on the proof and the evidence, did not cause the death and devastation in Gatlinburg," Isaacs said during the news conference at his in downtown Knoxville law office.

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Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, in a written statement, agreed he could not prove his case against the boys. He cited the "unprecedented, unexpected and unforeseeable wind event" that occurred five days after the Chimney Tops fire, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel and other national reports.

Those winds spread deadly embers into Gatlinburg and the surrounding region, according to national reports.

According to the News Sentinel, the boys were hiking on the Chimney Tops trail in the park on Nov. 23 and tossing lit matches onto the ground around the trail. Brush caught fire. The boys continued hiking down the trail. A fellow hiker with a Go-Pro happened to catch footage of them with smoke in the background. He didn’t know it was important.

Park officials decided to let the fire burn. Five days later, winds of nearly 90 mph inexplicably whipped up, spreading deadly flames into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

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