Wildfire evacuees demand answers

Wildfire evacuees demand answers

10 September 2011

published by www.chron.com

USA — Cole Rogers still doesn’t know when or if he’ll be able to return home.

The 19-year-old and his parents were forced to evacuate their home in northeast Waller County on Monday and haven’t been able to get any answers about when they will be able to go back.

“I’m worried because it’s been a few days and I haven’t heard anything,” Rogers said. “We took everything we could before we left.”

The tri-county wildfires just north of Houston have destroyed over 21,00 acres and have forced many residents from their homes. The fires started Monday and are burning parts of Montgomery, Grimes and Waller counties.

With the evacuations comes widespread need among human and animals alike. Churches have set up shelters, and the Waller County Annex has is being used as the central drop-off point for donations. It was packed Saturday with volunteers sorting out donated goods from dog food to hygiene products.

Beth Heisigi, 39, brought her two daughters Anna-Beth, 8, and Ashlyn, 7, to the county annex to donate some diapers and their time. The girls also donated some toys and a bicycle.

“Our hearts go out to all the victims of the fire,” Heisigi said.

Evacuated 3 times

The frustration has gotten to Andie Pittenger, 41, and her partner Becky Synder, 48, who evacuated three times this week

“It’s just getting ridiculous,” she said. “No one has told us anything and we can’t find anyone to answer our questions.

Pittenger has three large dogs and a cat at the Waller County Fairgrounds, which has been doubling as a shelter for more than 100 animals of evacuees. But the fairgrounds need to be cleared out to prepare for the county fair that begins Sept. 24.

“We will need to start preparing for the fair soon and ask that as of Sept. 15, people make other arrangements for their animals,” said Clint Sciba, first vice-president of the Waller County Fair Association.

Monkeys on the loose

Waller County authorities continued to round up displaced animals Saturday.

The unpredicability of the blazes forced many residents to set pets and livestock free, sometimes with only minutes to spare following evacuation orders, authorities said.

Although most of the animals picked up are dogs, cats and livestock, Waller County spokeswoman Jennifer Duhon said animal control officers are also searching for a group of monkeys that have been on the lam for several days. The type and number of monkeys remain unknown but they are not considered dangerous, she said.

“They belong to a resident out here and like many people he found himself having to set them free because of a last second evacuation order,” she said. “It can be really tough on people because they sometimes they just don’t have a choice.”

At the Baker Veterinary Clinic in Waller, a steady stream of animals has been arriving since Monday night, veternarian Wendell C. Baker said.

Baker said he is taking in 15 to 20 new dogs, cats, horses and cows every day. Some of the animals have been claimed by owners, but many have not.

The animals, many of them looking uneasy in their new surroundings, can be found living in close quarters on the Baker property, where they are tended to round the clock by a dedicated cadre of handlers.

Though he’s worked as a vet in Waller County since 1977, nothing could have prepared him for the past five days, he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said, taking a much needed break in his office after responding to 20 calls or so a day.

Baker said he expects the situation in Waller County to get worse before it gets better.

“I haven’t seen any burned animals yet, but I think it’s coming as the firefighters get into some of the areas they haven’t been able to explore yet,” he said.

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