Group donating cars to Gatlinburg wildfire victims

(Courtesy: Bruce McCamish/WATE)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Families are still working to return to normal more than a month after the wildfires first broke out in Gatlinburg. Some lost their loved ones and many lost their homes and everything inside, but some also lost their cars, leaving them to rely on other means of transportation to get to and from work, as well as run essential errands.

Caleb Chase remembers November 28 like it was yesterday.

“We opened the front door and those flames were about 50 yards away from the castle and it was burning down the house next door,” he said.

Caleb Chase was working at Smoky Mountain Castle surrounded by flames when he grabbed his wife and two dogs and sprinted for the car.

“I ran over a tree and it cracked the head of the car,” said Julie Chase. “We ended up having to park the car.”

“We made it down, and I can tell you I’ve not been that terrified in my life,” said Caleb Chase.

The car that saved them was totaled, but that’s where Michael Reifsnider stepped in.

“They’ve lost their home, their car and all their stuff. This is just the least I thought I could do is help people get back to work,” he said.

He partnered with Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries to get people on the road.

“He asked us as a non-profit if we would work with him so that people could actually take this as a tax advantage. Our ultimate goal is as many cars as we can get, we’ll make sure they are placed. We’re going to vet the folks and make sure to the best of our ability that they’re going to go to people that are in need,” said Dick Wellons, director of Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries.

The Chases were the second family to receive a car donation Thursday. They now plan to steer others in the right direction.

“This is a means to make it ourselves, because we’re not the type of people that wanted to just sit and get a handout. We want to do it on our own and help the people that also need help that were like us,” said Caleb Chase.

Reifsnider is just getting this program off the ground on Facebook, trying to reach as many as possible. If you would like to donate a car to someone in need, you can reach out to Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries on Facebook.

Click here for continuing coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.