A year and a half after the devastating Gatlinburg wildfires, three Knoxville law firms — Gilreath & Associates, The Baker Law Firm, and Gordon Ball LLC — have filed a lawsuit against the federal government for negligence and failure to control the fire.
The primary victim involved in the lawsuit is Michael Reed, who is seeking $13.5 million from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the loss of his wife and two daughters, as well as his home. Reed was away when the fire reached his home, but talked to his wife on the phone and instructed her to call 911.
That was the last time he spoke with her.
Sid Gilreath, founder of Gilreath & Associates, is working with Reed to help him get the compensation he deserves for the failure to act on the part of the national park employees, who were lead by Greg Salansky. Gilreath argues that Salansky made several critical errors over the course of five days, which lead to 14 deaths total and almost 200 injured.
Knox News recently explained that Salansky decided to try to contain the wildfire when it began, rather than fighting it immediately. This was the first of many mistakes dealing with the park fires that lead to the lawsuit:
“Salansky didn’t attack the roughly acre-sized fire directly, didn’t dig containment lines initially and waited four days to order water drops by airplane and helicopter. Most of the fire crew’s staff was on vacation due to the holiday. No one called them in.”
Additionally, fire crews and police in Gatlinburg were not notified of the wildfire threat until it was too late to evacuate the entire town.
For now, Reed and James L. England, Jr. (who also lost his home) are named in the lawsuit, but Gilreath expects many more names to be added before it’s over. Those who were affected by the Gatlinburg and Sevier county wildfires have until November 23rd to join the lawsuit.
If you or a family member were injured, killed, or lost possessions due to the 2016 Tennessee wildfires, contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today or submit your information on our website.