Gatlinburg fires: 13 dead; some residents allowed to check properties

Updated 8:51 PM EST, Fri December 2, 2016
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Story highlights

NEW: Parents were killed, their three sons ran for their lives

Missing Memphis couple found dead, officials say

About 90% of the fire zone has been searched

(CNN) —  

The number of people killed as a direct or indirect result of this week’s wildfires in eastern Tennessee has risen to 13, though emergency crews still have more areas to check, officials said Friday.

And for the first time since Monday night’s flames swept through the Gatlinburg area, authorities allowed some residents to get into the charred areas to see their properties and collect anything they can salvage, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said at a news conference.

Here’s a look at some of the latest information about the fires that swept into this resort-heavy area of Tennessee:

13 killed; some names released

Of the 13 who died, 12 were killed in the fires, and one person had a heart attack after fleeing and being exposed to smoke, Waters and the county’s assistant medical examiner, Dr. Vincent Tolley, said.

Among the dead, Tolley said, was a couple vacationing from Memphis: Jon and Janet Summers, both 61. They were found in Gatlinburg’s Chalet Village cabin rental area.

Their three sons, who were separated from the couple as the fires swept through the area, were found unconscious. Jared was released from the hospital Thursday while Wesley and Branson Summers remain hospitalized, according to CNN affiliate WKRN.

The family tried to evacuate by car but a fallen tree had blocked their path, said Jim Summers, brother of Jon Summers, at a press conference Friday.

“They got out of the car and somehow they got separated,” he said about the couple and their three sons. “And then after that, we don’t know.”

His three nephews “went through walls of fire. The entire road and on both sides of the road, when the wind blew up, it fanned the flames into this incredible inferno and they had to run through it all the way to the bottom of the mountain,” he said.

The fact that they survived was “completely miraculous,” said cousin Marsha Crownover. The three were smiling and grateful to see friends and family, she said.

A doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said Wesley and Branson Summers would undergo surgery Monday requiring skin grafts.