GATLINBURG (WATE) – Another Gatlinburg wildfire survivor is getting a fresh start thanks to volunteers.
The Appalachian Service Project has partnered with the Mountain Tough organization to rebuild 25 homes for wildfire survivors. The group’s latest home build was a present for a man’s 75th birthday.
Ernest Ogle lost his wife last year. Five weeks later, he lost his home in the Gatlinburg fires. He came back to find only the foundation was left. His 75th birthday on Saturday will be one he won’t forget.
Ogle received the keys Friday to his brand new home in Gatlinburg. He was both excited and humble.
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“He said they would build me a house. I said that’s great. I can’t build it. If you can build me up a tent and put a light in it I’ll stay in it,” Ogle said.
He’d been living on the mountain for more than 60 years in a home that was smaller than his new one. Fire consumed everything he owned eight months ago.
“Looked like Jesus Christ came back up that mountain. Just solid red,” he said.
Losing his home and wife so close together was an unimaginable pain, but his family is now finding indescribable joy.
“Today was like a reaction we got out of my father that we have not seen in a long, long time,” said Ogle’ son, also named Ernest.
Ogle’s son says this is the start of the rebuilding of their lives.
“If there is anyone that is an example of Mountain Tough, it’s Ernest,” said Walter Crouch, president of Appalachian Service Project.
“The day I die and go on to be with the Lord, I’ll never forget this day. And I’ll never forget these people,” said Ogle.
This was the second of the 25 homes rebuilt by the two organizations. One of the others is for Ogle’s sister.