David Nalley stared in disbelief Tuesday afternoon as firefighters battled a blaze that destroyed his home on Goshen Church Road in northwestern Dawson County.
"I'm still in shock. I guess it really hasn't hit me yet," he said. "It's everything I have, everything I've worked for."
No one was injured in the fire, which took crews from four county stations to put out. Fire Inspector Jody Holland said the cause remains under investigation.
Nalley built the nearly 3,000-square-foot house as his mountain retirement retreat in 1987.
"I built the house so I could sit on the porch and look out over my lake," he said.
A collector in his retirement, Nalley said he hates to think about the artwork, collectibles and antiques he lost in fire.
"Yeah, it's insured," he said. "But my youngest son's [Volkswagen] Bug is here too. He's had it since he was 16 and he's 28 now. That's going to devastate him."
Nalley, who lives alone, was returning from Dahlonega when he turned into his driveway and saw the smoke.
"I wish I would have been home, because you got to think that I could have done something, could have saved something," he said.
Firefighters said the home was engulfed in flames when they arrived about 1 p.m.
"We never actually got a 911 call about the fire," said Battalion Chief Robby Lee.
According to Lee, medical personnel were returning to Station 6 from a previous call when they saw heavy smoke in the area.
"They drove down [Goshen Church Road] through [Nalley's] gate and found the house on fire," Lee said.
The fire spread to the woods, but was stopped before it reached to two nearby homes.
Nalley said he had experienced some power surges at the house a few times in recent weeks.
"So I'm going to be talking to the electric company about that," he said.