How interoperability issues hindered police, fire response to a deadly wildfire

A review of the Chimney Top fire response reveals how interoperability and communications breakdowns contributed to the fire's devastation


By Keith Padgett, FireRescue1 Contributor

On Nov. 23, 2016, a wildland fire was discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in what is commonly referred to as the Chimney Top trail area. This was the second wildland fire within the past 10 days on Chimney Trail.

Park personnel chose an indirect attack control tactic to contain the fire. Over the next few days, the fire began to grow due to drought conditions described as “critically dry,” with humidity never rising above 40 percent. 

Even with massive firefighting efforts deployed, the fire grew to over 35 acres by Nov.  27. The next morning, strong winds had helped the fire spread outside the containment area. Over the next two days, the fire traveled into the city of Gatlinburg and to the edge of the city of Pigeon Forge. 

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