GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - Chalet Village in Gatlinburg received Firewise USA recognition more than a year after the deadly wildfires. It's a national program and the community went through a step-by-step process to get it. A community board taught residents how to protect their homes from wildfire risks.
Pete Jucker and his wife led the charge. They worked with dozens in the community for almost a year to get this recognition.
"In case of a radical event like we had that night of the fire, there's probably not much you can do but there a lot of things you can prep for," Jucker said.
He made it his mission to prepare his Chalet Village community. He and his wife lost their Gatlinburg home in the 2016 Sevier County wildfires.
"You can do all the complaining you want, but it doesn't help anything," he said.
He took action by heading up the Chalet Village Firewise committee. He helped educate others about things they can do to minimize wildfire risk, like carefully choosing landscaping.
"If their neighbors kinda pass on the word about it, yes in a wildfire situation we probably would have been better off," Jucker said.
Nathan Waters with the Tennessee Division of Forestry guided the community through this process. He believed this effort will save lives and homes.
"This is somewhere where they really needed and the state and Division of Forestry and myself are very appreciative of their work," Waters said.
Jucker said more than 100 people in his community now know about the Firewise USA program. The next "Firewise Day" for Chalet Village will be on April 28 so more people can be educated. Jucker said the City of Gatlinburg will hold its first community meeting on March 27 at 6 p.m.