Pigeon Forge fire chief reacts to Chimney Tops after-action report

Aug. 31, 2017: Federal leaders released a long awaited after action report on the Chimney Tops 2 fire in the Smokies.

SEVIER COUNTY - Federal officials released the long awaited Chimney Tops 2 After Action Report on Thursday, detailing the response of Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials to the fire and suggesting improvements for the future.

Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson says the November fire disaster was a learning experience for everyone.

His firefighters will benefit from more opportunities to communicate with the National Park Service if a situation like this ever happens again.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the community and what its experienced from this wildfire here," said Cassius Cash, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent.

"Including the loss of home, life and our way of life," said Cash.

Cash was one of four men who provided insight into the Chimney Tops 2 Fire after-action report Thursday.

"I just want to say to those individuals that my thoughts and prayers remain with you," said Cash, speaking to anyone affected by the fire.

TIMELINE: Report details timeline of Chimney Tops 2 fire response

Watson's radio was busy the night of the fires, the report says there was confusion between park officials and local firefighters.

"I think anytime we go through an event like that, there's always room where we can improve," said Watson.

Improvements the Department of the Interior saw were needed.

It's responding this fall by introducing new portable radios for a direct line of communication between park officials and local firefighters.

Watson says he avoided problems with his own extra radios during the fire, but other departments weren't so lucky.

"So I didn't have that problem," said Watson. "Now, have I heard about some of those problems? Yes I did."

The Friends of the Smokies is trying to raise $2.5 million to improve park communication.

"That's one thing that makes you glad to live in Tennessee is all the folks that are willing to give to make things better for us," said Watson.

The park said it also plans to refocus on vegetation management and remove dead and dying trees, which will help prevent future fires from spreading so easily.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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