Insurance Companies Filed Lawsuits Against The Government After Tennessee Wildfire

Last modified: November 26, 2019

Over 40 insurance companies are seeking more than $450 million in claims following the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfire. 

The wildfire happened in 2016, starting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and spreading into Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas after strong winds swept flames from the wildfire.  

Five lawsuits were recently filed in Knoxville’s federal court claiming that the officials of the National Park Service violated their own policies. It says that they let the fire grow despite the predicted high winds and prolonged drought. In addition, they are also accused of neglecting their duty — failing to monitor the situation and warn residents about the blaze. 

The wildfire destroyed or damaged over 2,500 buildings in Sevier County and took 14 lives. 

According to the reports, the park’s fire management officer, Greg Salansky, is the one who first spotted smoke on the 26th of November 2016. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the fire was about 0.4 hectares in size.

The lawsuit states that most of the crews in the fire department were on leave and they weren’t alerted about the situation.  

Monday morning came and the blaze already grew eight times its original size. Which means, the park officials didn’t monitor the fire for five consecutive nights. 

Embers were carried by the wind and started new fires. Gatlinburg City was about to get hit by the blaze and local officials didn’t even know that the fire was headed their way until 12:30 PM that day.  

Early evening, the city was already enclosed in flames and the winds went beyond 95 kilometers per hour. The firefighters and the police failed to deliver evacuation notices to everyone. 

Total insurance claims after the wildfire reached a staggering $1 billion. Three years after the incident, the government still hasn’t responded to the damage claims. This forced the insurance companies to sue the federal agency. 

Meanwhile, the fire victims have filed a separate lawsuit against the park. 

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