Charles the Pig & the Gatlinburg Fires

Rob called into the electric company to see the status of his power being out. A woman picked up during the recorded message and told him, “if you are at home, get out now!” He loaded the car with his family and neighbors and floored it while a fireball chased them down the road.

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The Gatlinburg Wildfires spread rapidly in November of 2016. The fires were started by two boys playing with fire. The drought combined with 87 mph wind gusts, spread it quickly around the city. The path was wild. It would burn down a house and then hop across the street and then leave a quarter mile unscathed.

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The next morning, Rob got a call saying his house was completely gone, but the pig was alive. Charles had rutted around a tree for hours kicking up dirt, building a little firewall for himself to breathe like a firefighter would do. He was taken to University of Tennessee Veterinary Center where they treated him for burns and smoke inhalation. Part of the reason he lived was his hooves were overgrown so the bottom of his feet did not burn.

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Rob, a bit of a huckster, started to improvise. His house had been uninsured and he wasn’t keen on living with his Mother and his fourth wife and toddler. He wrote a children’s book touting Charles’ survival as a religious miracle. He put Charles on public display in front of his Gatlinburg business, ironically, a hot dog shop, to sell t-shirts.

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Rob got his house rebuilt. Running into personal troubles in late 2019, he abandoned Charles. Having few residents, people quickly recognized the pig wandering around some abandoned hotels. Charles is now at Gracie’s Acres, a farm to house neglected pigs and adopt out eligible rehabilitated pigs.

Like the famous Wilber in Charlotte’s Web, Charles is “Some Pig!”. Despite it all, he continues to enjoy humping bouncy balls, sleeping like a teenager, and eating grapes.

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