President Obama signs disaster declaration to aid Sevier County

Burned structures are seen from aboard a National Guard helicopter near Gatlinburg, Tenn., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Thousands of people raced through a hell-like landscape to escape wildfires that killed several people and destroyed hundreds of homes in the Great Smoky Mountains. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Devastating Gatlinburg fires

President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration Thursday to deliver federal aid to Sevier County, where wildfires killed 14 people and did $500 million in damage this month.

Two juveniles have been charged with setting the fires that, fanned by hurricane-force winds, ravaged the Gatlinburg area and parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fire officials said nearly 2,500 structures were damaged or destroyed.

Home and business owners can now tap federal funds or make low-cost loans for repairs, uninsured property losses and other needs, a White House news release stated.

State and local governments and some nonprofits can seek reimbursement for emergency work and hazard mitigation as well.

To apply for assistance, register online at or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Gov. Bill Haslam also asked for disaster declarations after tornadoes damaged parts of Polk, Sequatchie, McMinn and Coffee counties.