Did Sevier County's lax building codes help fire spread?

Two of the dormitories at Arrowmont School are damaged from the wildfires around Gatlinburg, Tenn., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Rain had begun to fall in some areas, but experts predicted it would not be enough to end the relentless drought that has spread across several Southern states and provided fuel for fires now burning for weeks in states including Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. (Michael Patrick/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Devastating Gatlinburg fires

Several Sevier County commissioners said last week they doubted any construction standards would have mitigated loss from a fire as big and fast-moving as the one that devastated Gatlinburg, killing 14 people and damaging or destroying more than 2,400 structures.

But research says the choice of materials, distance from trees, and accessibility to firefighters can greatly increase survival of people and buildings. Most of those are not mandated in Sevier County, though some are recommended.

"Something like this, I don't know what kind of building codes you could have that would have helped," Commissioner Phil King said.

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