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GSMNP: Re-opened trails 'an opportunity to reflect' on wildfire

Almost all of the 31 miles of trails closed after the fire are now back open for visitors.

Two years after the wildfire disaster, flames have been replaced by icicles and trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that were closed in the aftermath of the blaze have reopened.

"All of the trails are reopened that were affected in the wildfires. In total, it’s about 31 miles of trails but they’ve all been reopened," park spokesperson Dana Soehn said.

But scars from the fires that killed 14 remain.

"There are going to be reminders for a long time for us for what we experienced as a community," Soehn said.

The popular Chimney Tops trail is almost completely re-opened, save the quarter mile portion at the top that was completely destroyed.

"It’s still an unstable slope area where we still have moving soils and it’s still not safe along that ridgeline to open it to the public," Soehn said."

As the trees along the top of the ridge burned and fell, they took large chunks of earth and trail with them. That means that portion of the trail is likely to remain closed for many years to come.

The park has made other changes too: safety upgrades in case of another emergency.

"Our fire crews have now removed woody brush and downed material along a mile and a half section of the park boundary in the Ski Mountain area," Soehn said.

The park has also installed an emergency siren and improved the ability of rangers to communicate via radio in case of another emergency.

The park says these changes will keep it safe for generations to come.

"The Smokies is a tradition for people. They don’t just come once, they come multiple times a year. And they make it a tradition that they take their children and their children's children will continue that tradition for generations to come," Soehn said.