72-year-old Sevier Co. woman loses home, memories and life savings in fire

Sue Barker was told Thursday afternoon her house on Hatcher Mountain Road, at the center of the evacuation zone, was a total loss.
Sue Barker was told Thursday afternoon her house was a total loss.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 1:24 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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SEVIER CO., Tenn. (WVLT) - Wednesday morning started as usual for Sue Barker. She left her home on Hatcher Mountain Road, and went to work in her career as a realtor.

Shortly after, she got word that mandatory evacuations were taking place near where she lived but by the time she tried to go back home, law enforcement told her it wasn’t safe and turned her away. For a day and a half, Barker was left only with the clothes on her back and wondering if her home was safe, until she got a text Thursday afternoon.

Sue Barker shows the text she received Thursday afternoon.
Sue Barker shows the text she received Thursday afternoon.(WVLT)

A simple text message of “is this your house,” quickly turned into a grim reality when Barker took a close look at the picture.

“I wouldn’t have thought it was my house but I have three rod iron chairs with baskets of flowers in them and I recognized the chairs. I never would have thought it was my house,” said Barker.

Inside the home there were precious memories like pictures of her children and grandchildren, along with jewelry and memories from her parents who have since passed away.

Along with her life savings in cash, Barker lost those moments in time that she said was more valuable than money.

“I just thought, I have tubs of handwritten greeting cards from my grandchildren and children. They don’t even know I save that, I was saving it for when I’m gone then they can open it up and see, ‘oh mom loved us enough to save the silly little drawings we did and stuff’. I had a whole tub of those and I know they’re not there,” said Barker.

As many continued to seek shelter from the fire that continued to burn, Barker stood strong in the face of adversity.

“I’m trying so hard to keep it together and stay calm because I’m alive and thank God nobody has passed away in this and we made it through 2016 and we’ll make it through this,” said Barker.

For the next few days, Barker has a hotel room paid for her by friends and family.

She will continue to figure out what the next steps are as she contemplates where she will live.

A GoFundMe was set up by her daughter to help Barker get back on her feet.

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