Two Minors Accused of Starting the Tennessee Wildfires that Killed 14
Two juveniles have been charged with arson and accused of starting the deadly wildfires in Tennessee, which have claimed 14 lives so far
Two juveniles have been accused of starting the deadly November wildfires in Tennessee, which have claimed 14 lives so far and are still burning, PEOPLE confirms.
Both minors have been charged with aggravated arson and booked into the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center in Tennessee, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Wednesday.
They were arrested that same day, bureau spokeswoman Leslie Earhart says.
The suspects are residents of Tennessee but are not from Sevier County, Earhart says. The suspects’ ages, genders and other identifying information were not available, she says.
“During the course of the investigation, information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire,” the TBI said in its statement. Earhart declined to comment further on the investigation’s findings, including on how the fires may have allegedly been started.
She says “it’s possible” more suspects could be arrested: “We haven’t ruled anything out.”
It was not immediately clear if the suspects have entered pleas or retained attorneys. It is believed they remain in custody in Sevier County.
Tennessee’s Fourth District Attorney General James Dunn said more charges are possible, as is seeking to try the suspects as adults, according to CNN. (Dunn could not immediately be reached.)
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The TBI said it began its investigation last week, joining the National Park Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Essentially, investigators have been working on this case non-stop,” Earhart says.
The fires blazed out from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Nov. 28 after starting five days earlier. Thanks to friendly weather conditions, they swept quickly that Monday into surrounding tourist-friendly areas, where they continue to burn — killing more than a dozen people, injuring more than a 140 others and damaging or destroying more than 1,700 homes, according to officials.
As of Wednesday morning the fires covered more than 17,000 acres, or roughly 26.5 square miles, according to the National Park Service.
The fires are mostly, but not yet completely, contained.
The TBI’s Earhart tells PEOPLE following the arrests, “We want Sevier County residents and those who lost loved ones in the fire to know that we are committed to [seeing] that justice is served.”