- Associated Press - Saturday, December 10, 2016

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) - Fourth-grade students at an Alabama school are passing up Christmas gifts and choosing instead to donate supplies to victims of the wildfires in east Tennessee.

The students at Johnson Elementary School in Limestone County are collecting supplies for victims of the fires, which caused the deaths of 14 people and forced thousands to leave their homes.

Both of the school’s fourth-grade classes voted to use the money they would have spent on Christmas gifts for each other to instead purchase the supplies, teacher April Haney told the Decatur Daily (https://bit.ly/2hwitkL).

As of Thursday, the students had collected 12 boxes of supplies, including winter clothing, personal hygiene items, medical supplies and canned food, Haney said.

The donations exceed the students’ normal limit of $10 each for Christmas gifts, Haney said.



Once the effort is complete, the supplies will be transported by G&S; Auto Sales in Ardmore, Alabama, to the impacted areas.

The fires, which started in November, burned more than 16,000 acres in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A wildfire which had begun in the national park was spread by high winds that carried embers into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, setting several buildings on fire. The fires that spread into the Gatlinburg area led to 14 deaths, injured 134 others, and damaged an estimated 2,500 buildings.

On Friday, visitors jammed the main roads and sidewalks in Gatlinburg as the tourism city reopened to the public for the first time since the deadly wildfires.

While Gatlinburg’s main drag was left intact, the charred remains of homes, vehicles and businesses on side roads served as a reminder of the cleanup and repairs needed in the days ahead.

The hills around the resort area featured a steady chorus of chain saws. Fleets of utility vehicles and contractors’ trucks came and went. There was little need for security as many of the homes were so heavily burned that there was nothing left to steal.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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