Update: Sevier County Thrift Store Fire

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Sevier County (WVLT) -- The embers are still so hot that investigators haven't been able to get in, and determine whether it was an act of nature, or malice, that sparked yesterday's fire that destroyed a Sevier County church thrift store.

The loss is great, but some of those most affected see it as a test of faith.

"There was probably a lot of clothes and things in there since it was a thrift store," said Sevierville spokesman Bob Stahlke. "It was very hot burning fire, but also very quick too."

So hot that firefighters found little but the framing amid a fireball that looked like the inside of a foundry furnace.

So quick, the strategy wasn't to try and save the building, but to stop the fire from spreading.

"Our main objective now is to save the mill which is to one side of the structure," Stahlke said.

The firefighters succeeded, but as yesterday's flames gave way to smoldering ashes, the community began to realize what had happened.

"Ironically, I was supposed to come yesterday, to make another payment, but I had other things to do," said Betsy Evans, a thrift store customer.

Evans is one of the many who've counted on the thrift store to furnish a home.

"I can't just afford to go out and buy a brand new couch," she said, "and I had a couch here, on layaway. They were helping me with whatever I could pay each week."

She's a little unsure what she'll do and more deeply concerned about those depending on the thrift stores dollars.

"The thrift store was to fund the drug and alcohol abuse victims," Evans said, "and those who needed help in that process and recovery."

New Hope is already taking donations to re-stock, replace, rebuild the building.

Betsy Evans wonders whether the loss provides the grist, for her own growth.

"God has a reason for everything, so there is a reason for this, and maybe it's because we're supposed to have a better place," Evans said. "God willing, we won't be down long, I don't think we will."

New Hope's thrift store had been in the old Maplewood Farms Shopping Center.

If you'd like to help, with your dollars, clothing, or furnishings, you can call them at 865 932-HOPE

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