Tennessee Wildfires Cause $842M in Insurance Claims

January 20, 2017

State officials say insurance claims have topped $842 million in the deadly eastern Tennessee wildfires that burned thousands of buildings.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance provided the number to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The department says as of Jan. 6, the Gatlinburg-area wildfires resulted in more than 3,900 claims and more than $842 million in residential and commercial property losses.

The numbers don’t include damages to uninsured structures.

In mid-December, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters estimated damages at more than $500 million. Previously, 2,460 structures were deemed damaged or destroyed.

On Nov. 28, gale-force winds spread wildfires to the Gatlinburg area, killing 14 people.

Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Michael Peacock says FEMA has approved $2.5 million in wildfire-related grants as of Tuesday.

Officials say the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has received a $5.8 million federal grant to help workers affected by the eastern Tennessee wildfires in November.

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a National Dislocated Worker Grant to create disaster relief employment for individuals to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts following the wildfires that killed 14 people and burned thousands of buildings in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Officials say hundreds of workers dislocated by the fires are receiving unemployment benefits. The grant is expected to help about 200 Tennessee workers.

In a statement, state Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips says the money will “accelerate the cleanup and recovery process in an area of our state that saw so much devastation.”

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