House fire survivor finds himself facing particular challenge in proving identity

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 4:48 PM CDT
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NORTHPORT, Ala, (WBRC) - A Northport man faces an unusual situation after losing his home in a fire this week. Perry Acklin wishes he had done the one thing that could have made trauma more bearable.

This is a strange situation in which Perry Acklin knows who he is, of course, but the problem is he literally lost every bit of paper identification in the fire such as his birth certificate, driver’s license and credit card records.

“It takes all I have to fight back the tears,” said Acklin.

We begin with Perry Acklin’s story with the daring escape, not only for him but for his wife, daughter and their kitty cat Sabastian.

“And our cat was making unusual noise,” he said.

The fire started in the garage early Tuesday morning, long before sunrise.

“I grabbed my fire extinguisher, started downstairs in the basement immediately and was engulfed in smoke,” he remembered.

Overwhelmed and understandably afraid, Acklin could no longer battle the fire. The family barely made it out alive.

“Realized it was a lot more than I could do,” he said.

And now the challenge of starting over in some respects at 75 years old is just beginning.

“I lost my wallet because I had it laying there,” he said.

To begin anew, Perry Acklin needs a new birth certificate and driver’s license, but he’s having trouble proving who he is. Every shred of paperwork, gone in the fire.

“All my credit cards and my insurance cards,” Acklin said.

WBRC reached out to the Tuscaloosa County Health Department. They tell us Acklin can begin the process of getting his vital records such as his birth certificate by having a family member come in and become part of the reapplication process, by far not an unsurmountable endeavor, but one that’ll require patience.

“I beat myself to death over this because I thought about getting a fire safe,” he said.

Meantime, Perry Acklin gazes at what used to be his home of 31 years, 31 years of memories gone in a matter of minutes, but still possesses all that matters, his life and the lives of his family.

“By the grace of God, we made it,” he said.

Perry Acklin says at this point, he has no idea what started the fire and he has yet to find his beloved cat.

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