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Sources familiar with the teenagers and the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly about the case say the two boys are friends and live in Anderson County. The boys were hiking on the Chimney Tops trail in the park on Nov. 23 and tossing lit matches onto the ground around the trail, the sources said. A hiker unwittingly captured an image of the boys walking away from the trail with smoke in the background, and the teenagers' clothing helped authorities identify them, according to sources.
The oldest boy is the son of an Anderson County Sheriff's Office employee, according to sources.
Investigators said the State is unable to prove the criminal responsibility of two juveniles beyond a reasonable doubt for the devastation that happened outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to the high wind speeds that spread the Chimney Tops II fire from the Great Smoky Mountains to Gatlinburg and parts of Sevier County.