SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – A year after a large wildfire destroyed over 100 homes in Hatcher Mountain area of Sevier County, an American flag saved from the blaze is flying at the home of a U.S. veteran once again.
The home of Herman Duran, a U.S. Air Force veteran, burned down during the Hatcher Mountain Fire. On Wednesday, he celebrated the reconstruction of his home with the firefighters who risked their lives to keep the community safe and save some important items from the home.
Last year, Duran was living in Florida and had his vacation home here in the Smoky Mountains. He was only a year away from retiring and making Tennessee his permanent home when the devastating fire broke out.
“I got a call that there was a fire that started and it’s miles away,” Duran explained. “The mountain has been evacuated and that’s all I could do, I couldn’t do anything. My concern was that nobody was here and then I left it up to them [firefighters] and they did what they could and I’m very grateful for them.”
Crews from the Northview Fire Department were some of the many firefighters trying to protect the area. They were there for less than an hour before it became too dangerous and they needed to evacuate.
“Dustin and I were around the side of the home right before we decided it was time to evacuate. As soon as we went around the corner the flag was just flying, the wind was just perfect, and I knew right then that this house wasn’t going to be standing,” Northview Fire Department Battalion Chief Heidi Satterfield. “So I thought why not take it? We could always return it, but I just couldn’t leave here knowing that I left it.”
It was a small gesture that meant a lot to the U.S. Air Force veteran.
“The last thing they were able to do was to save the American flag and my Air Force colors and that just brought tears to me,” he said.
Wednesday, those firefighters hung the flags on Duran’s new home.
“I think it’s amazing,” Satterfield said. “We don’t usually get to come and experience the new home part after devastation happens.”
Duran told us last year that he would rebuild and hang those flags once again. He kept his promise. He also presented the firefighters and the owner of Lipsey Home Builders with a special flag of their own to thank them for their work.