Harper Avenue fire

Officials originally responded to a car fire, and it is believed the flames from the car ignited a nearby residence on Wednesday on E. Harper Ave.

An estimated 15 men living at a New Opportunities sober-living house in Maryville had to be moved to different recovery houses after their group home caught fire Wednesday.

“Everyone who lives there was in an early stage of recovery,” said Tim Jacobs, New Opportunities house manager, “where they were just starting to get things back.”

New Opportunities, which has several sober-living homes in Blount County, offers a place for people new to recovery. Those who live at those houses are required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, get jobs and participate in mandatory drug testing.

“While they live there, they learn how to get back on their feet,” Jacobs said. “It’s more accountability.”

The East Harper Avenue fire forced the men to move to new sober-living houses, but Jacobs said the men still lack basic living essentials lost in the blaze.

“It starts hitting you a little harder when you start missing small things you’d never think of,” he said, “like a toothbrush.”

Jacobs said only one person was inside the house at the time of the fire and was not injured.

“Somebody was driving by who is part of the program and saw the house on fire and stopped and went and got him out of the shower so no one was hurt,” he said.

The fire department has not yet released the cause of the fire, but Jacobs said it was likely an electrical fire that began in a nearby car.

Fire officials originally responded to a car fire at 1305 E. Harper Ave. in Maryville at 11:40 a.m. Wednesday. The flames from the car lit the nearby house, a Maryville Fire Department official said.

The official reported the house being “severely damaged” and “uninhabitable.” The house had served the recovery community for eight years.

New Opportunities divided up salvageable items in the house and got in touch with the American Red Cross to ensure the men had some essential items.

“They probably didn’t have a lot of possessions,” Jacobs said. “But what they had was all they had. It was devastating for them.”

Jacobs and other New Opportunities allies have taken to Facebook to ask the community to donate clothing and toiletries.

“They lost everything so anything will help,” he said.

Jacobs added that when encountering difficult times during the early stages of recovery, sobriety can be more difficult to maintain.

“It definitely puts them more at risk for relapse,” he said. “But that’s why we as a recovery community have to come together and wrap our arms around each other.

“When you’re faced with something so early in a really life-changing time of your life, it can really tear you down,” he said. “But the only way to look at it is God wouldn’t have brought them to the edge of the shore just to leave them there.”

Follow @sshreports on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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