Eighteen months after parts of Gatlinburg were devastated by raging wildfires, the city is celebrating its new Firewise recognition.
To earn the designation, the community conducted wildfire hazard assessments and developed protection plans to address safety concerns. Citizens learned how to clear vegetation from around their homes to prevent fire from spreading, and rebuilt with more fire-resistant mateiral.
"This is such a tremendous milestone," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said. "We are honored to receive this recognition after a considerable amount of work and dedication from both the City of Gatlinburg and from the Firewise committee. The implementation of the action plan steps will serve to make the community more wildfire resistant."
Tennessee leads the nation in new Firewise recognized communities so far this year with 5, and now has a total of 24 in the program.
"Tennessee's forested landscapes and rolling hills are assets to our great state, however they also put communities like Gatlinburg most at risk for wildfire," State Forester Jere Jeter said. "We commend the people of Gatlinburg for coming together to make their community safer and more prepared for any future threat. Being Firewise benefits residents and the many visitors who come to enjoy the mountains. We are pleased to have been a part of this accomplishment and proud to see the recognition, as it is extremely well deserved."
The free and voluntary Firewise USA recognition program allows communities to apply for grants from the Division of Forestry to implement projects specified in their Community Wildfire Protection Plans.