Haslam asks Obama to expedite major disaster declaration

(Courtesy: National Park Service)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Haslam asked the president on Friday to expedite a major disaster declaration for five Tennessee counties.

Haslam made the request in order to get federal assistance to help aid in the recovery from the severe storms and devastating wildfires.

The counties included in the governor’s declaration request are Coffee, McMinn, Polk, Sequatchie and Sevier.

“My goal is to help ensure these counties have what they need to rebuild and recover from these heartbreaking disasters,” Haslam said. “The state and our local partners continue to work through the damage assessments, provide necessary services to help those in need, and get our neighbors and friends back on their feet.”

PHOTOS: Wildfires in East Tennessee

PHOTOS: Tennessee, Alabama storm damage

A presidential disaster declaration could help the counties with costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and rebuilding and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, utilities and recreational facilities.

A federal disaster declaration, if awarded, may also help qualifying individuals with direct assistance.

On Nov. 28, wildfires rapidly spread through Sevier County, causing mandatory evacuations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The wildfires caused 14 fatalities and damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 structures in Sevier County.

And overnight on Nov. 29, five tornadoes touched down in Tennessee with two weather-related fatalities in Polk County.