GATLINBURG, TN (WJHL) – Many teams are donating their time and talent to help with rebuilding efforts.
While the emotional scars remain for fire victims, the team are giving them physical reminders of the good that lies ahead.
The vibrant greenery on the Mountain tops in Gatlinburg are a sign of a changing season — spring has arrived.
But nestled in the green is a much darker color, as shades of black and grey cover homes, trees and even businesses, which were all scorched by the fire.
“We ran up the driveway,” wildfire victim Donna Patrick said. “There was fire on both sides of the driveway. There was fire all around our house.”
November 28 is a night Patrick said she will never forget, as those wildfires prompted a mandatory evacuation of Gatlinburg.
“Trying to make our way out of town took a number of hours because everybody was leaving. It was a very scary experience. Very scary,” Patrick said.
It’s a fire that would leave 14 people dead and more than 2,400 buildings damaged or destroyed.
Patrick’s home was just one of those leveled by the flames.
“You didn’t really believe it until you actually saw it,” Patrick said. “You know we heard it was gone, but we didn’t know. We didn’t know. We had to come up and see it for ourselves, and seeing it was devastating.”
But six months later, we found the focus isn’t on what’s left, but what’s yet to come.
Just last month, Glenna Ogle broke ground on a brand new home in the very spot where fire destroyed it in November.
“I’m 76 years old,” Ogle said. “Never had to ask for any help, but now I’m getting it from everywhere.”
A new chapter made possible thanks to organizations like the Appalachia Service Project and the Mountain Tough Recovery Team.
“Glenna’s will be the first,” Walter Crouch with Appalachia Service Project said. “We are working on a couple others sites, getting permits right now and we’re ready to get started.”
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said this is just one of the many signs that recovery efforts are well underway.
“We’re up to about 70 percent as far as issuing clean up permits on homes in the county that were destroyed, and we’ve got about 120 rebuild permits already,” Waters said.
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