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Gatlinburg wildfire victim to receive replacement home

CNN Newsource

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Shovels broke ground in Gatlinburg on Tuesday, a first step in rebuilding after last fall’s devastating wildfires.

It’s the start of a new home for Glenna Ogle, who lost her house in late November’s firestorm. That blaze burned 2,000 structures and killed 14 people.

Ogle’s getting a new home courtesy of the Mountain Tough Recovery Team, the Appalachia Service Project (ASP) and the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church partnership.

“All the hugs and praises from everybody. It really builds me up, you know,” Ogle said.

“We’re delighted to share excitement for this community milestone and the ASP home build,” Mountain Tough Recovery Team Chair Ellen Wilhoit said.

“The moment the fire broke out, I knew on a very personal level that I wanted to help,” ASP President Walter Crouch said.

The mayors of Gatlinburg and Sevier County were also on hand for this springtime groundbreaking.

“It’s a new beginning. If you just look over your shoulder, look behind you at all the new growth,” Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said.

“They’re going to be working every day to meet the unmet needs of those that have been so devastated by this fire,” Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said.

Ogle said she’s extremely grateful for all the help after the fire burned down the house her father built and that she had lived in for years. She looks forward to a new home nearby.

She said her faith has gotten her through these tough months.

“Well, that’s about all I’ve had to talk to since the fire is God,” she said.

“The night of the fire, I told him I was ready to go. But I raised my hand, and I said, ‘I don’t want to go this way,'” she recalled. “I was right there in the fire, and he kept me here.”

The funding from this partnership goes to low-income fire victims who lost their house completely and had little or no insurance.

These groups say they’ll build 25 replacement homes this year and more after that.