Many Houston County residents’ plans literally went up in flames as wildfires consumed much of the area on Sunday afternoon, September 3, 2011. Locals were relieved by the winds of Tropical Storm Lee and hoped for rain, however, the rain never made it and the winds have made a bad situation tragic for many when wildfires consumed pastures, engulfed forest and pine plantations and left several families devastated due to the loss of their homes.
At approximately 1:30 p.m. Grapeland Volunteer Fire Department was paged out to respond to a fire that had originated from a power line in Anderson County. Fueled by the wind and dry foliage, the fire quickly traveled into Houston County to FM 228, known to locals as the Percilla Community. Several families were evacuated as fire threatened their homes. Many ranchers in the area were forced to load up livestock in case the fire should continue to move toward their homes as it engulfed all the pastures and tree lines around their property. Grapeland, Weches and Slocum Volunteer Fire Departments were all on the scene to battle the fire. While many may not have been aware of the seriousness of the wildfire, an eerie feeling was noted by many, as a thick smog rolled across the area and the smell of smoke was in the air for miles around.
Another fire on Highway 7 East, four miles outside of Crockett, had evacuated homes on County Road 4505. According to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, that fire started at 2:20 p.m. Crockett and Kennard Fire Departments were the first on the scene. The Texas Forest Service has reported that that fire is about 200 acres. They intially sent two bulldozers and additional resources were requested. Evacuations were being enforced as 15 homes were threatened by the blaze. There is no report yet on how that fire was started.
The Texas Forest Service has reported another fire on Highway 21, west from Crockett to 3380. This fire was estimated to be approximately 80 acres in size. A bulldozer was on the scene to cut fire lines.
Other area fires were also reported in Palestine, Robbins, Flynn, Mt. Enterprise, Kilgore, Ben Wheeler, Upshur County and near the Tyler Pounds Field Airport.
Authorities have reported that the First Baptist Church in Crockett is offering shelter Sunday night for those evacuating.
Power outages have been reported throughout the Crockett and Lovelady area. According to Oncore a major substation has failed and it may be noon tomorrow before the power company is able to get the station back up and running.