Wildfire survivors take steps to protect homes as they rebuild

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - One year after the Sevier County wildfires, many lots sit vacant and to some re-building seems slow.

But others are committed to rebuild and many are taking some extra steps to try to ensure their homes never go up in flames again. Pete Jucker is heading up the Chalet Village Firewise Committee.

"From that first night on we knew we wanted to build back, we just want to build back smarter," he said, standing in his burned out lot.

Jucker spoke about breaking ground on his new house, all while remembering the one that was reduced to ashes this time last year. Now he is not just trying to understand the term firewise, he is educating others about things they can do to help minimize their fire risk.

More online: Firewise USA

He took WATE 6 On Your Side on a tour of a home already under construction. He says it's important to consider the materials homeowners rebuild with.

"Eventually with enough heat, nothing is fire proof, but its concrete through and through," he said, showing what looks like a piece of siding.

Jucker explained that concrete siding, a poured concrete base and carefully choosing your landscaping are a few simple ways to minimize the chance of flying embers sparking an all out fire.

"Use mulching sparingly," Jucker said. "Most of us know we are going to go back with river rock about five feet around our house because you can grow plants and bushes inside your rockscape."

Keeping gutters clear of leaf litter and screening off areas under porches and decks also helps. The bottom line, Jucker said, is some of these things may cost more up front, but it could save homeowners heartache in the long run.

"I'm not going back on piers b/c the piers made the house like a chimney, we are gonna pour a concrete wall all around where the piers were. It's going to cost us more, but that's worth the piece of mind."

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