City of Gatlinburg reopens after deadly Tennessee wildfires

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – A large portion of the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg reopened Friday after the wildfires that killed 14 people and burned more than 2,500 buildings and homes.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the nation. Gatlinburg alone gets more than 11 million visitors per year, and local officials say it’s crucial people not cancel their plans to visit.PHOTOS: Wildfires in East Tennessee

Business owners have been working hard to make the downtown area tourist-ready again.

“It’s pretty much been one of everything you can think of, whether it’s just cleanup, products, making maintenance and everything is going to be working and setup by Friday, making it as professional as possible like we try to be every single day,” said Joey O’Neill, supervisor of Ripley’s 5D Theater.

“We would kindly ask that you all come back here and visit us,” O’Neill said. “I know that seems to be asking a lot, but spring break, summer vacation and Christmas is our economy here. If you could please come back, that’s all we can ask.”

The two main fires, the Chimney Top 2 fire, which is 91 percent contained, and the Cobbly Nob fire, which is 92 percent contained, are still burning but no longer spreading.

Prosecutors charged two juveniles with starting the fires on Wednesday. Due to their age, their identities have not been released. Officials said they are Tenenssee residents but don’t live in Sevier County.Click here for complete coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.

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