By Dave Russell


An early morning fire last Thursday completely destroyed a home in the Savannah community of Jackson County, leaving a family with nothing but the clothes they wore.

The call to 911 dispatch came in at 3 a.m. about a fire at 90 Ohana Trail off Pumpkintown Road, according to Jackson County Fire Marshal Michael Forbis.

The first units arrived on scene at 3:10 a.m., he said.

“The home was a total loss, and the family only has what they were able to put on while leaving the home,” Forbis said.

The fire appears to have started at, or near, the front of the house in the area of the porch, he said.

The home was occupied by Tim Coggins Jr., his fiance Tera Milkey and three children, including a three-week-old baby.

The family was alerted to the fire when the dog woke Milkey up, Coggins said Tuesday.

“She smelled the smoke and woke me up and I ran into the living room to see what was going on and that’s when I noticed the front of the house was on fire,” Coggins said.

Coggins and Milkey grabbed the kids, but could not exit the home using the front door. They had to go out through the basement.

The home was built by Milkey’s father, Chris Milkey, and brother, Ryan Milkey, a two-year project, Coggins said.

The family had not even lived in it a year, he said.

The cause of the fire has been ruled undetermined and is still under investigation, Forbis said. 

The home was a two-story single family structure with vinyl siding.

Units responded from the Savannah, Sylva, Cullowhee and Qualla fire departments from Jackson County, and Franklin and Mountain Valley from Macon County.

Harris EMS, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Forest Service and Jackson County Fire Marshal’s Office were also on the scene.

The family has a GoFundMe page set up for folks who would like to help. It can be found at