SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE)– A military veteran is thanking firefighters for saving some important items in the Sevier County wildfires.

Herman Duran lost his dream home in the Shagbark Community but said he’s looking at the bright side.

Duran has a year and a half before his retirement. Right now, he lives in Florida and had a vacation home here in Tennessee.

That home, however, burned down in the fires. But he said firefighters are giving him the strength to rebuild after saving an item that means so much to him.

Duran said, “I spent ten years in the service, loved every minute of it. I was in the U.S. Air Force.”

Duran’s time serving made him look at our country and our flag in a different light.

“I always present my flag with pride and honor and right next to the flag I also had my U.S. Air Force banner,” he explained.

He proudly had both hanging on his cabin when the Hatcher Mountain Fire took place. He was in Sevier County at the time and knew his dream home was in danger as fire crews were trying to save it.

Northview Fire Department Battalion Chief Heidi Satterfield was one of those firefighters. 

Satterfield said, “we were trying to save four homes up there at the time. I had crews working on two, and Dustin Wilhite and myself were at the gentleman’s home working around it.”

She said they stayed in the area as long as they could.

“The wind had shifted and the flames were just rolling up the mountain and at that time I knew that we had to leave. I mean, there was nothing else we could do.”

But before she could leave, she said, “by the time that I turned around to tell my crew it was time to go, I saw this beautiful American flag flying in the wind just as freely as it flies normally in the wind and I stopped in my tracks. I could not leave that house without taking it down.”

It was a gesture Duran said meant so much,

“I will be flying that flag again. I will be flying it again, proud as ever.”

Herman Duran

“What a sign of respect that these fire crews, the last thing that was on their mind before getting out of there was to lower the flag in respect and take the U.S. Air force banners down.”

A sign, he said, gives him the strength to rebuild,

“I will be flying that flag again. I will be flying it again, proud as ever.”

Duran said he does have insurance on the home. His was one of more than 200 structures damaged in the fires.

The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency estimates the total cost of the fire damage to livable structures was around $65 million.