After surviving the Sevier County wildfires back in November, one Gatlinburg man is emptying his retirement savings to help other victims recover.
As the fires engulfed hundreds of homes on the night of November 28, Rodney Clark did what he could to help his neighbors get out safely. He and his fiancé, Linda Clark, grabbed everything they could and made their way down the mountain, stopping only to help their neighbors.
"Everywhere we went we just kept picking up people who were stuck behind burning trees and can't go forward, can't go backward. It was all an inferno for them," Clark said. He used his chainsaw to cut the burning brush out of the way.
"If we hadn't cut those people loose, they'd have all burned to death in there," he said.
One of those families thanked Clark for getting them to safety by giving him half an acre of land. The parcel sits on a hilltop just above his home. The family, who wants to remain anonymous, is from the town of Loudon. They were visiting their property on the day of the fires.
Clark said, with help from HGTV, he plans to build six tiny homes and a tiny lighthouse. Linda contacted the network about the idea months ago. Clark said HGTV quickly got on board.
"I figure if I give them some place to live, at least they've got something stable in their life," he said.
He is using his own money from his 401K to get the project started. For several months, he’s been busy burning brush to clear the area for the homes.
Clark said, it's all for Linda, who died in January from congestive heart disease.
"I know she never got to see it finished. I'm not there yet either, but it's just so neat that it's come together like this," he said.
Clark hopes to have the lighthouse and all six tiny homes complete by the fall. He said HGTV has plans to broadcast the build from his property.