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Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountains reopen after fatal wildfires


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are reopening to the public Friday after wildfires that caused 14 deaths and damaged about 2,500 buildings.

Most of the main tourist area in Gatlinburg was spared by the fires that were whipped into the city by hurricane-force winds the night of Nov. 28, and officials are keen for people to return to the city with a population of less than 4,000 that draws more than 11 million visitors a year.

The Smokies are the country's most-visited national park, and Superintendent Cassius Cash says the days following the fires are "the most challenging and emotional days our community has likely ever had to endure."

Prosecutors have charged two juveniles with starting fires within the park that later spread.

Group works to reunite pets, owners after Tennessee fires

In the emergency evacuations ahead of fast-spreading wildfires out of the Great Smoky Mountains last week, scores of pets were separated from their owners.

The Humane Society of Sevier County had to evacuate its own building, sending its animals to nearby shelters in eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. The day after the fires, officials got to work setting up a temporary shelter in a barn at the county's fairgrounds.

About 150 dogs and cats have been taken in, some of them badly burned. About 50 more are being held on behalf of owners forced from their homes. About 40 lost pets have been matched with their owners and the shelter is posting photos of found animals on social media in hopes they'll be able to reunite more of them.