Statement from TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan for news media on questions regarding after-action review of the Sevier County wildfire.
“The Sevier County wildfire is the most catastrophic wildland-urban interface fire event in the history of Tennessee, and the most devastating fire in the state since the 1916 East Nashville fire. While TEMA and its partners have had initial, internal discussions on how to proceed with our after-action review, we are mindful that the wildfire’s historical impact and consequences, requires our evaluation to be thorough and of both the response and recovery operations, and include input from all organizations and jurisdictions that have played a role in either phase.
Following the fire and severe weather, TEMA staff transitioned quickly from response to recovery operations. Recovery operations continue in Sevier County and the storm impacted counties to this day. Many state, local, non-governmental, and federal personnel who would be critical to any comprehensive after-action, and this includes TEMA staff, are spending weeks-at-a-time in Sevier County focused on the community’s recovery.
For context on the timing of after-action completion, previous reviews following major disasters in Tennessee have taken months to complete. For example, the after-action review covering response and interoperable communications during the May 2010 Tennessee Flood, was finalized In November of 2010, six months following the onset of the disaster. In 2011, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency conducted an after-action review for the five federally declared Major Disasters; that review was completed in late-August 2011, also six months after the first disaster that year struck Tennessee. Neither of those after-action reviews included an evaluation of recovery operations, which we believe is critically important to include in our Sevier County wildfire after-action, and which may add time to the assessment’s completion.
Additionally, any release of an after-action review will be subject to the requirement currently in place from the Sevier County District Attorney to hold records subject to Rule 16 of the Tennessee rules of criminal procedure due to the on-going criminal investigation into the wildfire. This action has been coordinated with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.
Finally, it is important to recognize the ongoing commitment, dedication, and hard work of the many local, state, non-governmental, federal agency personnel and volunteers that remain engaged in Sevier County getting Tennesseans the help they need, coordinating disaster programs with FEMA, and working with local officials to support long-term recovery.”
About the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency: TEMA’s mission is to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery from man-made, natural and technological hazards in a professional and efficient manner in concert with our stakeholders. Follow TEMA on Facebook, TNDisasterInfo, on Twitter, @T_E_M_A, and at www.tnema.org.