Teens Charged in Tennessee Wildfires Could Face Life

(CN) – Already facing aggravated arson charges that carry up to 60 years in prison, the two teenagers accused of starting the Smoky Mountain wildfires that killed 14 people could also face more serious charges including murder.

“Everything is on the table,” Sevier County District Attorney James Dunn told CNN regarding the case against the boys.

The wildfires ignited Monday, Nov. 28, forcing thousands to evacuate the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., and surrounding areas.

Fourteen people were killed in the inferno that ravaged the tourism hotspot for days. More than 2,400 buildings in the area were destroyed in the blaze.

The two boys, ages 15 and 17, were arrested and charged with aggravated arson last week. They are currently housed in a Sevier County detention center. Their names have not been released because of their ages.

If convicted of aggravated arson, each teen could face up to 60 years in prison.

But CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos said the teens could also be charged with first-degree murder under Tennessee law, even if they didn’t intend to kill anyone. A conviction for first-degree murder in the Volunteer State carries a maximum penalty of life in prison or the death penalty.

They could also be charged with reckless homicide or criminally negligent homicide, which carry maximum penalties of 12 and six years in prison, respectively, according to Cevallos’ analysis in a CNN report.

The teens would have to be tried as adults to face murder or homicide charges. It is unclear whether prosecutors will charge them as adults.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the Gatlinburg fire was the largest in the state in the past 100 years. It was preceded by a drought that saw 10 to 15 fewer inches of rain than normal during the past three months for much of the South.

Country music icon Dolly Parton said she raised about $9 million during a Tuesday night telethon for those affected by the wildfires. The donations will go to Parton’s My People Fund, which will pay $1,000 a month for six months to families who lost their home.

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