The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency announced that they have lost all emergency calls made to and from the state and Gatlinburg during the November 2016 fire.
TEMA said on December 8, 2016, during a manual back up of the recording system, their telecommunications staff noticed there were no recorded phone calls in the telephone recording system archive prior to November 29, 2016. TEMA said after the discovery, they investigated it several times resulting in no answers.
A third-party forensics firm, DSicovery, Inc., conducted an analysis of the recording system and concluded the system overloaded as a result of the volume of calls into the system during the wildfires on November 28. Because of the overload, there was reportedly no room in the recording system to preserve calls before November 29.
A group called Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivors held a press conference this afternoon (Friday, July 28, 2017) to discuss the announcement from TEMA. The group demanded answers from several named officials, not only with state offices, but also with local city and county governments. The press conference was ended early at the request of the site that held it. Members of the group was allegedly threatened to be arrested by law enforcement if the press conference did not end. The group moved the remainder of the press conference to Mynatt Park.
A representative with the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County said the recordings had nothing to do with the city or county, but instead only dealt with TEMA offices, and so no one would be making any comment.
Fourteen people were killed in the fire and over 1 billion dollars in damage was done.