Grimes County residents evacuating to escape wildfire

June 20, 2011 7:43:08 PM PDT
A Grimes County wildfire that destroyed dozens of buildings and injured at least one person Sunday is still causing problems, and now residents are being ordered out of the way. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for all homes along County Road 305 near Navasota.

The Renaissance Festival grounds was once serving as a shelter for people being evacuated. But it's now in the path of the fire, so those who were evaucated are being taken to Navasota High School.

There's also a shelter set up at First Baptist Church of Magnolia, which is providing help with basic needs.

It's not known at this time when those evacuated residents will be allowed back home.

As they leave the path of the fire, residents are registering to receive notification that their home has been lost or spared.

Kathaleen Palermo already knows the answer about her home.

"It went up. It went up," she said.

Palermo has no insurance and lost everything she owned.

"I said, 'Get your babies, get your dogs, get what you need to do to get out.' This is what I have," she said, pointing to the clothes she was wearing. "This and my car, and I got my little dogs out."

She is now homeless. She left without even a change of clothes, taking only her animals with her. The fire was too close to stay any longer.

"All the smoke was coming," she said.

About 4,000 acres and 1,900 homes and businesses across Grimes County have been threatened by the fast-moving fire, fed by high winds and assisted by dry conditions that have made battling the blaze a tough task for firefighters.

"We anticipate difficulty with control of this or any other fire that gets started under these conditions," Justice Jones with the Texas Forest Service said.

Concepcion Villareal's family van looks more like a closet than a vehicle.

"I looked out and I saw this big old black smoke and I thought, 'What in the world?'" Villareal said.

She grabbed her daughter and her niece last night, but her brother refused to leave their Navasota subdivision because the family is worried about looters.

"You can't go back. I tried to go back, but they won't let us," she said.

The winds, which gust up to 40 miles per hour, are shifting, so this fire is traveling northeast and northwest, spreading now in two directions. At last check, the blaze was less than 10 percent contained.

Late Monday, the Houston SPCA started heading to Navasota to set up a Mobile Animal Shelter to provide emergency housing for animals affected by the flames. The shelter is located at the Navasota Auction Barn, 7846 Highway 90 South. Large animals such as livestock can be sheltered at Mid Tex auction barn located at 5105 Highway 90 South in Navasota. The First Baptist Church of Navasota is also receiving donations for family relief. The Red Cross is accepting monetary donations online of by mailing a check American Red Cross , P.O. Box 1920 Brenham, Texas 77834.

Fire damage from Sunday

According to the Texas Forest Service, the Dyer Mill Fire started when a barbecue pit fell over onto the grass. It has jumped at least one fire line, burning about 3,600 acres. About 100 homes have been evacuated within the burned area.

"If the fire picks up today with the winds that they are predicting and it happens to cross one of the containment lines, we could be looking at more evacuations," said Lexi Maxwell with the Texas Forest Service.

The fire and damage is in the area within F.M. 1774, Texas 105 and C.R. 362, located about 60 miles northwest of Houston.

A three-mile stretch of Texas 105 near the community of Stoneham is closed until further notice.

Officials said the blaze destroyed between 20-30 homes and 20 buildings, and several more have been threatened. At last check, the fire was at 25 percent containment.

One civilian was injured. The victim became stuck, pinned between two fire trucks. That person was taken to a hospital in Grimes County in unknown condition.

The fire isn't the only danger to residents, according to TFS. Most of the trees in the area have been weakened by the fire. Those trees or their branches could fall at anytime, causing severe injuries.

We are gathering more information and will update you on Eyewitness News and as additional details become available.

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