Evacuations ordered due to wildfires

Evacuations ordered due to wildfires

06 September 2011

published by www.abclocal.go.com

USA — The fire burning through structures and parched land in Montgomery, Waller and Grimes counties continues to grow. At least 1,600 acres have burned and thousands have been forced to flee their homes to a safer place. In a matter of a hours, the smoke and haze drifted dozens of miles and settled over the city of Houston on Monday night.

The wildfire started burning around 3pm along the Montgomery County-Grimes County line off FM 1774 east of Todd Mission community. We’re told at least 1,600 acres have burned and that the blaze is moving fast due to high winds.

The fire has been burning in a south/southwest direction.

Authorities say the head of the fire south of FM 1488 in Montgomery and Waller Counties is contained. Other areas of the fire are still being battled to insure containment.

Montgomery County deputies say about 8,000 people were told to evacuate their homes in the Magnolia area on the Montgomery County-Waller County line. Authorities told people who live south of FM 1774 to leave.

The Grimes Co. Sheriff’s Office Monday afternoon evacuated about 60 homes in the Lake Holley Hills subdivision. The sheriff’s office is staging at the location of the Texas Renaissance Festival. The Red Cross is also setting up a canteen for firefighters/rescuers at the Texas Renaissance Festival. They say no structures have been affected on the Grimes Co. side.

DPS says FM 1774 from CR 302 to FM 1487 is closed due to fire.

A shelter has been set up in the Magnolia area. The Red Cross is staffing the evacuation center set up at Magnolia High School at 14350 FM 1488.

In Grimes County, the shelter is at the Grimes County Expo Center; and for Waller County, the shelter is at the First Baptist Church in Hempstead at 5th and Main streets.

Here is a list of neighborhoods evacuated:

Grimes Co. — Lake Holley Hills

Montgomery Co. — River Park Ranch; Ranch Crest

Waller Co. — Fox Crest; Remington Trails; Oak Hollow; Clear Creek Forest; Twin Oaks; and Lakeside Estates

Magnolia ISD says all schools will be closed Tuesday, September 6 due to the wildfires. If necessary, further details will be posted at www.magnoliaisd.org.

Things quickly got out of control

The smoke was high, the fire wide and it caught many off guard Monday afternoon.

“No, I don’t have anything. I just came to pick up dinner. My mom and my husband are still down at the house,” said Sandra McDonough.

More than 1,600 acres burned and 20 structures destroyed. And as hard as they fought it, the blaze jumped FM 1488.

“At this point in time, be as cooperative as possible. And calling 911 is not helping matters any right now,” said Chief Domingo Ibarra of the Magnolia Police Department.

One firefighter was injured and at least one fire truck lost as 8,000 residents evacuated and waited and worried.

“I’ll tell you we left our house and about 30 minutes later, we couldn’t even get back to it. So it’s moving probably eight or ten miles across the ground. So God help us,” said Terry Dorundo.

Some of the first ordered out recalled the scene.

“It was the blackest sky I’d ever seen, blacker than any thunderstorm I’d ever seen. We heard a propane tank explode some hundred feet off. It was just very hot and heavy,” said Kevin McNully.

And it’s not letting up leading to a very sleepless night near Magnolia.

“Hopefully they get it out before it gets close to us,” said McDonough.

The mandatory evacautions of Montgomery County and Grimes County neighborhoods began late Monday afternoon. As families fled their homes, many didn’t know what would happen to their houses or their neighbors.

In southeast Montgomery County, the Department of Public Safety says voluntary evacuations were underway Monday afternoon in the Sleepy Hollow subdivision in the Shenandoah area. DPS says people who live from Sleepy Hollow northward to Forest Lane and from Post Oak to Main are being asked to leave. So far no homes or structures have been burned and no injuries reported there.

This started out as the Labor Day holiday which meant a lot of people were home. That may have be the only fortunate thing about this fire — that most people were able to get what they could and evacuate, helping neighbors along the way.

A Valero station is not an official evacuation center, but it functioned as one from the afternoon on.

Those who live in the Lake Holley Hills subdivision gathered a few miles from the homes they were advised to leave. Jo Jo Sanchez was among them. His life started to change just after two this afternoon when he smelled smoke

“Met up with another neighbor and he goes, ‘I know where it’s coming from, let’s go.’ And we took off from the area and immediately helped a lady who lived there evacuate all her animals and water her house down,” said Sanchez.

He and his wife left with their pets. That’s all they were able to take.

“There was an upside to it. I did hear from one of the neighbors that our houses might not be burnt down,” said Sanchez.

As they waited, emergency crews raced down the road toward Magnolia where hundreds of acres of dry brush burned. Not far from the place Barry Mongonia calls home.

“I had a chihuahua and they just got it a few minutes ago- thats what these tears are for,” said Mongonia. “You have things one day that can be taken away from you the next day.”

An ABC13 viewer called to say if there is anyone in need for a place to keep their animals, he has 45 acres fenced for cows, horses, etc. off Nichols Sawmill Road in Magnolia and is willing to help for no charge. Call Bob at 713-857-6772.

And ‘Hooves and Hearts’ wants people in the fire zone to know that they have stables available for horses that need to evacuate. They are offering their services for free, but if people drop off their animal, they’re asking people to bring their own feed if possible.

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