A mother and grandmother who couldn’t escape her cabin in time has been identified as the first casualty of the Gatlinburg fire.
Alice Hagler, who said on Facebook that she was retired, was found deceased in Chalet Village, a cluster of rental cabins where she lived with one of her two sons, said The Knoxville News Sentinel. The son was not there when the blaze broke out.
Authorities have said that seven people in all have been found dead as a result of the inferno; however, Hagler is the first person to be identified, a confirmation her son made to the news media on November 30.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hagler Was on the Phone With Her Son When the Fire Reached Her Cabin
Horrifically, Hagler’s son, James Wood, who lived with her, was not at home and was on the telephone with his mother when she told him that the cabin was on fire.
He told her to leave and, for days, the family hopes that she had made it to sanctuary. However, Hagler was found dead in her cabin.
James told WATE-TV, “We had been talking for several hours on and off. She called me at 8:30 and said the house was on fire. I told her to get out immediately. We got disconnected and I have not been able to get in touch with her since.”
Alice Hagler’s son later wrote on Facebook, “With a heavy heart, I want to let all of you know that my mother has passed away. I would like to thank all of you for your prayers and support in this troubling time! I would also like to thank all of the public servants who worked around the clock to bring mom back to my brother and I. Please continue to pray for our family…. and again thank you!!”
The day before, he had written, “I’ve had several calls and texts today so I want to give a update. Please pray for my family especially my mother….. as some of you know… much of gatlinburg last night. I was working at 8 30 and received a frantic call from my mom that our house was on fire… we got disconnected and I have not heard from her since… she isn’t in any of the shelters or hospitals. The national guard has been working all day to get up to what’s left of our house! We’re praying for a miracle!”
2. Hagler Was a Loving Grandmother & Mother Who Worked in a Christmas Store
Many photos on Facebook show Hagler hugging and with her young grandchild. She is also featured in photos with one of her sons. CBS46 said that Hagler lived on top of the mountain and worked at a Christmas store.
On Facebook, Hagler identified herself as single. She wrote that she had studied at Auburn University at Montgomery and went to Elmore County High School.
3. Hagler’s Son, a Pastor, Released a Moving Statement After His Mother’s Death
Hagler’s son, Lyle Wood, is a pastor at a Savannah, Georgia church, Compassion Christian, according to his Facebook page. He released this statement to the news media after his mother’s body was found:
“It’s with a very heavy heart that we have to announce that our mother was found in the ruins of her home, her life taken by a devastating fire that impacted so many lives in East Tennessee and will continue to for some time to come. We are forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have experienced from so many people around the nation that have heard our story and reached out to help. A very special thank you to all of the police, firefighters, first responders, forest rangers, dispatchers, sheriff’s officers and highway patrol officers that have all put their lives in danger to support this region and community. Alice Hagler will be missed by many until we can see her again. Grace and Peace, the Wood family.”
4. Hagler Died on the Same Street That a Family Went Missing
Many people have been emotionally moved by the story of Michael Reed (above), who is searching for his wife, Constance, and two daughters, Chloe and Lily. He and his son had gone to see if the fire was as close to their house as it looked on television.
He was unable to find his family after that point. They lived on the same street as Hagler, said ABC News, which added that Reed’s wife called him on the phone before she disappeared and told him there were flames across the street from the house. He suggested she call 911. Michael Reed was still looking for his family on December 1.
5. The Fire Has Burned Through Almost 15,000 Acres
The wildfire was likely from human origins, officials have said, although they have not provided other details about the cause of the blaze.
The blaze has ripped through almost 15,000 acres in the Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee. Gatlinburg, which was hit particularly hard, is a quaint resort town for which many people have nostalgic memories.