Santeetlah resident survives destructive fire
The Graham Star
October 02, 2003
Media Provider Information: The Graham Star
Firefighters were called out before daylight Monday morning for a house fire in the Thunderbird section of Lake Santeetlah.
When Jean Reese of Island Drive, awoke around 6 a.m., she was disoriented by a light she saw on her bedroom wall. Still half asleep, her first thought was that someone had broke into her house. After calling out “who’s there” and receiving no answer, she turned on her light to a sight that was more horrifying then the thought of a prowler. The entire front half of her home was engulfed in flames.
With little time to spare, Reese ran out of the house but fell over a ladder that was left from recent construction. Bruised and shaken, she managed to gain her feet and started yelling fire. Finally, a neighbor heard her calling and dialed 911. Within seconds of the call, Santeetlah Volunteer Fire Department was at the scene but it was already too late to save the four-story house.
“The house was totally engulfed by the time we arrived,” said fire chief Jerry Collins. “All we could do was contain the fire to prevent damage to the properties on either side.”
Collins extended thanks to the Robbinsville and Snowbird Volunteer Fire Departments for their quick response and help. Collins said he believes the fire was caused by an electrical problem of some kind.
Originally from Florida, Reese fell in love with the area and along with her son-in-law and daughter, Bill and Karen Tunnell, brought the house in April of 2001. Reese lives here full time and her family visits from Atlanta.
A retired school teacher and potter, there were many memories and works of art stored at the house that can never be replaced. Also, Reese had just spent several thousand dollars in remodeling costs but this remarkable woman is determined to bounce back.
“The people here are absolutely wonderful and I’m so grateful for the friendship they’ve given me,” Reese said. “My son-in-law is an architect and is already designing a new home. Meanwhile I’ll stay with them in Atlanta. I’m just grateful to be alive after this horrifying ordeal.”
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