Tennessee’s governor says there’s no reason the review process of the Gatlinburg wildfires should be anything but open and transparent. This comes after the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency lost the recordings of all calls from the night the fire started.
TEMA discovered the problem in December when responding to media requests, but the agency only announced it last week. It had hired a digital forensics company to attempt to retrieve the calls, which examined TEMA’s archive computer in early July. The company determined that the server had run out of storage, automatic backups had begun failing in October 2016, and the recordings no longer existed, according to
a document retrieved by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Gov. Bill Haslam defends the state agency in this case, saying it will work to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
“The TEMA deal, I can assure you — nobody meant for that to happen. I think the system was just a deluge of calls and the calls got erased that day,” he told reporters Tuesday.
“In terms of going back and doing the case review about what all happened that night, I don’t think losing those [recordings] will restrict their ability to do that.”
But TEMA and other government agencies have also been reluctant to share other information about the emergency response to the wildfires.
For months, they said they couldn’t release records because there was a pending case against two
minors accused of setting the fire. A judge ruled in June that the agencies are allowed to release some information. But, as the
Knoxville News Sentinel reported last week, TEMA did not inform media outlets about the order and has not said when it will make those records public.