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Preliminary estimates show more than $68 million total in damage and response costs from Sevier Co. wildfires

Most of the cost is from damage to livable structures, totaling around $65 million.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency said the county could have seen around $68 million in damage from wildfires in early April.

It released the preliminary damage assessment on Wednesday, showing it estimated around $65,708,200 in damage was done to livable structures. The agency also estimated the cost of fighting the fires took around $3.2 million from the county in public assistance.

The public assistance cost includes the cost to remove debris, take emergency measures and spend money on needed utilities. It also includes firetrucks that were destroyed by the fire but does not include how much the State of Tennessee may have spent on responding to the fires.

Sevier County will give the cost to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to be evaluated, starting an auditing process to ensure they are accurate. Following that process, it could be eligible to receive relief assistance funds.

It would need to reach an $11.2 million threshold in public assistance costs for assistance, and the state's expenses could push the total costs over that. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency could judge the cost of damage to livable structures differently than the estimates from Sevier County, depending on whether they were owned by residents or rented. FEMA will make the ultimate decision on how much the county could get for homes that were damaged.

Governor Bill Lee previously said that damage from the wildfires in Sevier County would likely total in the "tens of millions of dollars," after touring the area and meeting with first responders.

According to a damage assessment report released on April 21 by Sevier County officials, the Wears Valley fire burned 2,498 acres and affected 213 structures.

Here's a breakdown of structures affected:

  • 125 were destroyed
  • Four suffered major damages
  • 58 suffered minor damages
  • 26 were affected by the fire

The damage assessment report also includes a breakdown of how many residential and overnight rental structures were affected.

Residental structures affected

  • 64 were destroyed
  • One suffered major damage
  • 32 suffered minor damages
  • 13 were affected by the fire

Overnight rental structures affected

  • 61 were destroyed
  • Three suffered major damages
  • 26 suffered minor damages
  • 13 were affected by the fire

Officials clarified that major damage is 50%, not inhabitable and repairs will take longer than 30 days. Minor is structural damage that is 25% or less and can be easily repaired, and the structure is usable in a relatively short amount of time. Affected is 10% or less of the structure and it is still inhabitable.

One person was injured, but no one else was hurt. The fire began the morning of March 30 on Hatcher Mountain and was spread by gale-force winds through the night. State forestry officials said the fire was out by April 8. 

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