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Date of Issue: March 22, 2007

Former mayor finds North Carolina 'not so safe'

deffenbaugh pic
Up in smoke
The chimney is all that remains of this home in Bryson City, N.C., near the home of former Anna Maria Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh, after a forest fire March 11 consumed more than 100 acres and nine homes - one of them Deffenbaugh's summer home - in the Grassy Branch community near Bryson City. Photo courtesy: Asheville-Citizen Times, Bill Sanders

Former Anna Maria Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh always thought the hills of western North Carolina would be a great place for a summer home, far away from the hurricanes that always seem to threaten Florida from June to November.

He purchased his summer house in 1985 in Bryson City, about 65 miles west of Asheville, near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

During the past few years, he’s moved a number of family items, heirlooms and memorabilia to his “safe” North Carolina home to ensure they wouldn’t be lost in a hurricane.

Alas, the hills of North Carolina turned out to contain something just as deadly as a hurricane.

On Sunday, March 13, a raging brush fire tore through 100 acres of land just outside Bryson City, destroying Deffenbaugh’s summer home along with eight other residences and damaging 25 additional houses.

“It was a total loss,” said Deffenbaugh. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said, but preliminary reports indicate someone may have been burning trash without a permit and the fire got out of control.

“It’s the biggest fire ever in that county,” Deffenbaugh added.

He and his family are traveling to North Carolina this week to inspect the damage first-hand.

“From what I’ve been told, there’s nothing left but rubble. Everything inside was lost. We’ll just have to go see.”