News 4 I-Team gets 911 calls related to deadly Gatlinburg fires - WSMV Channel 4

News 4 I-Team obtains 911 calls related to deadly Gatlinburg wildfires

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Fourteen people were killed in the wildfires in November 2016. (WSMV) Fourteen people were killed in the wildfires in November 2016. (WSMV)
SEVIERVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

For the first time, we are hearing the emotional pleas for help from those trapped by the deadly Gatlinburg wildfires.

On Wednesday, local agencies in Sevier County released 911 calls and other records requested by news outlets and the public.

Through an open records request, the News 4 I-Team obtained hundreds of 911 calls made on Nov. 28, 2016.

On that day, a massive firestorm enveloped the city of Gatlinburg, prompting evacuations.

Many victims claim they never received a warning about when to evacuate.

Just days after the massive wildfire, emergency officials admitted they never sent a text alert to people's phones.

What ensued was fear, panic and frustration.

"The whole mountain is on fire up here, we're trying to make our way down but I think we're all going to burn up quick. Can you do something?" said one woman in a 911 call.

"Where exactly are you at on Wiley Oakley [Road] right now?" asked a dispatcher with the Gatlinburg Police Department.

"We don't know, the flames are so high up here. We're trying to make our way down, we tried to go the other way, and the power lines were down," she said.

For hours, dispatchers tried helping people trapped in the mountains as flames crept toward their homes.

"We're trying to get people to you," the dispatcher said.

"The whole mountain, the whole Wiley Oakley is on fire. Y'all need to do something quick, quick, quick," the caller replied.

Multiple callers said roads were blocked by debris or other vehicles, making it difficult to escape quickly.

"Well, we're trying to get down but you got a little caravan of four cars... and we can't see anything either. We're trying to edge our way down but we can't see," the caller said.

The I-Team obtained more than a thousand calls from the Gatlinburg Police Department and Sevier County chronicling that same day.

For months, several public agencies had delayed the release of records due to a memo from the District Attorney's office that claimed the information was relevant to a pending investigation and criminal case.

Last year two Anderson County juveniles were charged with starting the fires but prosecutors decided to drop the charges in June.

Days earlier a judge had determined the gag order only applied to attorneys involved in the case, allowing agencies to start releasing other information related to the wildfires.

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