Maryland couple hiking Appalachian Trail stops to help Gatlinburg fire victims

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GATLINBURG (WATE) — When disaster strikes the simple things in life can become the things that matter most. Ontaria Kirby and her husband are professional chefs from Maryland who are in Gatlinburg helping fire victims and volunteers.

“It’s already a taxing time for everybody, so when you can sit down and have a nice warm meal it’s a piece of love, it’s a piece of community when you’ve lost everything,” said Kirby.

After a fire a destroyed their home Baltimore, Maryland the couple was ready for a change.

“We just had a lot of things not go our way and after it was all said and done, we just decided to get on the trail,” said Kirby. “We were looking for a new path… a fresh start.”

During their trip down the Appalachian Trail the couple heard about the fire sweeping across Sevier County.

“We both said, let’s go help out with this fire, let’s see what we can do, I mean we are both chefs, everybody has to eat,” said Kirby.

They gathered their backpacks and headed to the Smoky Mountains.

“We got a ride with a donation truck that was coming to Gatlinburg that day and we hopped on the back with our packs, ended up getting to the Sevier County Rescue Squad,” Kirby said.

For the last few weeks, the Kirbys have spent all of their time preparing food for those who come through the donation center set up by the Sevier County Rescue Squad.

“We do a lot of BBQ just because people like it. We do fried chicken, potatoes,” said Kirby.

All of this in the Preacher’s Café set up Pastor Sam Steele of Sevier County Missions Church.

“To save expense on the volunteers and their families, we decided it was something we could do to provide for that need,” said Steele.