'Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivors' group demand change at city meeting

Members of the Gatlinburg wildfire survivors group raised more concerns about ongoing safety and recovery in the mountains.

Members of the Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivors group raised more concerns about ongoing safety and recovery in the mountain at Tuesday's City Commission meeting. 

Several members of the group started public comments by remembering the 14 lives lost during the fires in 2016.
 
Every time they called a name, another member of the group stood up, which was then followed by a moment of silence. 
 
"I'm actually doing this for the victims that can't talk and it bothers me," said the group's leader, Chris Dunaway. 
 
Dunaway is one of the many people who have questions and have addressed concerns during these commission meetings. 
 
"Right now, I think Gatlinburg needs to be safe, that's my number one concern is to make Gatlinburg safe," Dunaway said.
 
A similar concern was brought up by University of Tennessee professor Henri Grissino-Mayer, who predicted the devastating fires last year.
 
"Fire has been happening. It has happened in the past, it has happened now and it will happen again in the future," Dr. Grissino-Mayer said.
 
He said it's not a matter of if a fire will happen, it's a matter of when.
 
"The plans they have in place right now is just the status quo. It's going to burn again but they need to change. Things need to change here," he added. 
 
Grissino-Mayer shared with 10News his next prediction, which is one he does not like making. 
 
"I don't want to make a name for myself predicting what is going to burn next but this is the reality. Pigeon forge, reality is, dodged a bullet," he said.
 
Pigeon Forge is on the edge of what researchers call the wildland urban interface - an area with an enhanced risk for fires, an area where Gatlinburg lies.
 
"Pigeon Forge may not be so lucky next time," Grssino-Mayer added. 
 
Whether it's Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, the fire victims want change and they want to feel safe.
 
"We are rising together from the ashes and helping each other and helping to make change in this community," Dunaway said. 
 
City commission leaders did not respond to public comment requests and questions. 10News reached out to Mayor Werner for comment but was politely declined. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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