FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 24, 2018
GILREATH & ASSOCIATES, GORDON BALL LLC & THE BAKER LAW FIRM
FILE INITIAL WRONGFUL DEATH AND PROPERTY LOSS LITIGATION ON BEHALF OF TWO VICTIMS OF THE CHIMNEY TOPS 2 FIRE
Law Firms Represent Hundreds Alleging Widespread Negligence By
National Park Service Allowed Fire To Spread Into Gatlinburg and
Knoxville. The Knoxville law firms Gilreath & Associates, Gordon Ball LLC and The Baker Law Firm filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee alleging a series of negligent actions or failures to act over a six-day period by National Park Service employee Greg Salansky and Great Smoky Mountains National Park leadership resulted in the deaths of Constance M. Reed and her two young daughters, Chloe and Lilly, personal injuries to husband and father Michael B. Reed, and the destruction of Reed’s home and belongings, as well as the home and belongings of another man, James L. England, Jr.
The 148-page and 410-paragraph complaint details how National Park Service employees, led by Salansky, who discovered and became the Park’s incident manager for the fire, made one critical mistake after another from the moment The Chimney Tops 2 Fire was discovered on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 up until the fire, enhanced by long-predicted near hurricane-force winds, escaped Park boundaries and engulfed Gatlinburg and other local areas. Park employees failed to warn local officials, residents and visitors of the fire’s imminent danger, preventing local fire officials from preparing for the fire and local residents and visitors from protecting their property or evacuating.
According to the lawsuit, Salansky, with little experience managing wildfires in the Park, repeatedly failed to follow settled fire-management policies from day one of the fire, continuing to ignore those policies until the fire exploded and left the Park five days later, on Monday, November 28, 2016. Salansky’s actions went unchecked, as – against policy – he functioned in all of the critical command-roles and controlled the Park’s fire resources.
The lawsuit further alleges that Salansky and other fire managers neglected to monitor The Chimney Tops 2 Fire for five consecutive nights after the fire was discovered, knowing that ground fuels, severe drought conditions, and then a high-wind warning, and treated what was initially a fire less than an acre in size as a prescribed burn, seeking to contain it within a 410-acre “box,” rather than suppressing it, and allowed the fire to grow, largely unchecked, when it could have been – and should have been – extinguished, by water drops and firefighters. The fire ultimately burned over 17,000 acres, killed 14, injured nearly 200, and destroyed approximately 2500 homes or structures.
The lawsuit asserts the first legal claims for damages in court of what will be hundreds in the coming months. Mr. Reed seeks$13.5 million against the government for the lives of his wife and daughters and loss of his home, while Mr. England seeks $1.3 million for the destruction of his home and property.
865.809.4370 or 865.525.7028
Sidney W. Gilreath
GILREATH & ASSOCIATES
Bank of America Center, Suite 600
550 Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
Lance Kristopher Baker
THE BAKER LAW FIRM
550 West Main Street, Suite 600
Knoxville, TN 37902
GORDON BALL LLC
7001 Old Kent Drive
Knoxville, TN 37919