Dyer Mill Fire Continues to Threaten Grimes County

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Friday Afternoon Update

Plantersville, TX - The mandatory evacuation for the Dyer Mill Fire located about 4 miles west of Plantersville and south of Hwy 105 was lifted Thursday afternoon. The fire remains at 5280 acres and is 95% contained.

Friday crews will be working at making sure the containment line is secure and extinguishing smokes within the fire area.

The Dyer Mill fire was fought by firefighters and crews from 48 different agencies. Firefighters came from all over the United States, as far away as Michigan, South Dakota, and Alaska as well as Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, California and Oregon.

When the Incident Management Team leaves the fire, Plantersville-Stoneham Volunteer Fire Department will resume taking the responsibility for the fire. They will be assisted by other area fire departments as needed. They will have a continued presence in the area patrolling and responding to any flare-ups as the weather gets warmer and drier. If residents have concerns about flames or smoke, they should call 911.

The Fire Information Office will close when the Incident Management Team is released. Beginning Saturday residents can get information from:
• Grimes County Emergency Management – for general information on the fire at (936) 873-4404
• “211”- for referrals to a wide variety of agencies that can provide assistance – Call 211 from a cell or landline
• The Red Cross -for information on assistance at (866) 526-8300
• The County Judge’s Office- for general information or concerns at (936) 873-4476
• Navasota Baptist Church – to make donations and or ask for assistance (936) 870-8974

The American Red Cross and other agencies will be available to meet with affected residents Saturday, June 25, at 9 a.m. at Navasota High School. The high school, at 9238 Highway 90 South in Navasota, has been serving as a Red Cross Shelter for evacuees. Red Cross staff and volunteers, and representatives from other organizations, will be on hand to meet with residents to discuss their needs and begin providing assistance.

Residents are advised to use caution as there are still safety issues in the fire area: threats from burned trees that could fall, traffic from emergency responders & vehicles, as well as possible downed powerlines and damaged utility poles. Emergency responders are still working to contain the fire so be cautious around emergency vehicles and heavy equipment. Yesterday a firefighter sustained a minor burn injury from stepping into a stump hole full of hot ash. He was treated by EMT’s and released. Residents should be cautious and aware that there are still risks in burned areas that even trained firefighters are not able to avoid.

Thursday Evening Update

All evacuations in place on the Dyer Mills Fire have been lifted. The fire is now 95% contained.

At one point during this fire as many as 1,800 people were evacuated.

News 3 was there as people came back to see the destruction for the first time.

Sasha Gruney is looking at what used to be her home.

The Dyer Mill Fire in Grimes County reduced it to rubble.

"You look at these random belongings that are sentimental or related to people who have passed and that's probably the hardest thing to lose," said Gruney, who lives on Millstone Drive in Grimes County.

Before it could be contained the Dyer Mill fire destroyed 32 homes and scorched 5,280 acres. Now investigators say it is believed the fire was started by somebody barbecuing outside on their property off Pappas Road.

"The District Attorney's Office will get the case whether it's a criminal offense or not will be viewed you know like I said before it'll be fairly advised by law enforcement, fairly reviewed by the District Attorney's Office. There was not intent, no arsonist situation," said Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell.

Judge Betty Shiflett says she's most grateful that no one was killed by the fire but says while the scene is safer, it's not completely safe.

"I can't express in words my gratitude. We had so much of a team effort here that came together so quickly, and we saved Grimes County," Shiflett said.

For Sasha Gruney, she hopes to be back out here after her big day.

"This is a good place. Everyone came to visit and this is actually where we had planned the wedding reception to be so we might have to change that now," she said.

We're told the family of six living here hopes to rebuild.

The Red Cross and other agencies are hosting a meeting for disaster victims Saturday at 9 A.M. at Navasota High School located at:

9238 Highway 90 South
Navasota

Were told the shelter there is still open for those affected by the fire.

Thursday Morning Update

Plantersville, TX - Portions of the mandatory evacuation in place on the Dyer Mills Fire have been lifted for residents only. The fire is located about 4 miles west of Plantersville and south of Hwy 105. The precipitation that fell on the fire yesterday allowed firefighters to accomplish some good work on controlling the fire. There was no increase in size, the fire remains at 5280 acres and 75% contained with a control line around most of the fire.

Today fire and local officials will be evaluating the situation to determine if it is safe for all residents to return to the fire area. State Representative Kolkhorst will be visiting with local officials and touring the fire area today.

While there are still mandatory evacuations in effect, some parts of the evacuation area have already been lifted. As of noon Wednesday, June 22, 2011, the evacuations were lifted on the following areas:
• County Road 202 (Pine Brook Subdivision)
• County Road 201 (Shadow Lake Subdivision)
• County Road 306 through to County Road 362
• FM 1748
• County Road 308
• The roadblock on Country Road 304 has been moved back to the intersection of 304 and 344.

While fire managers and the county recognize the need for people to return home, residents are encouraged to postpone returning to the area for a few more days. If they do choose to return, they are advised to use caution as there are still safety issues in the area: threats from burned trees that could fall, traffic from emergency responders & vehicles, as well as possible downed powerlines and damaged utility poles. Emergency responders are still working to contain the fire so be cautious around emergency vehicles and heavy equipment.
There is significant potential that power, water and phones may not be operating if residents return home. For information about those services, residents can call:
• Phones: 936-825-7016
• Utilities: 936-825-5100 Mid-South Synergy
• Entergy: 936-825-6525
The mandatory evacuation remains IN PLACE for:
• CR 304 from 344 to CR 302
• CR 302 from Lone Star to Micrea

Firefighters today will be working on securing the fire line around the perimeter. Three dozers and four area Volunteer Fire Departments and two strike teams of TIFMAS engines are working on the fire. Today they will focus on securing the perimeter and suppressing hot spots within the fire perimeter. Despite the completed line, the fire is only being called 75% contained because some line needs to be improved to make it secure. Thursday, the weather is expected to get hotter and drier.

People are asked to respect the mandatory evacuation and understand the restrictions in place are for their safety and the safety of emergency responders. The situation is assessed daily to determine when the remaining evacuation order can be lifted.

Wednesday Night Update

It was standing room only at the fellowship hall at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Stoneham Wednesday evening.

Emotions ran high as most people want answers on if their home is standing and if they can even go home.

The fire is now 75 percent contained but we're told it may be at least one more day before the remaining evacuated residents are allowed back in.

During the meeting officials talked about available resources including calling 2-1-1 for help and recovery but it became a shouting match during the question and answer session at the end.

Some residents have been unable to go to their homes since Sunday and were frustrated they were not receiving updates on the fire and conditions in a quicker manner.

"Well you know I understand it's a safety issue but I look at it this way. That's my house, that's my land, I have a right to defend it against anything that I feel I need to defend it against. Criminals, fires," said David Engel, a Grimes County evacuee.

" I did that because of your health and safety I don't regret it. You'll never get me to say I made a bad decision because the loss of any life that I would have to live with because I was too chicken to tell you to get out," said Judge Betty Shiflett of Grimes County, regarding the mandatory evacuations this week.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:
CR 304 from 344 to CR 302
CR 302 from Lone Star to Micrea

Crews are scaling back efforts now that they have gotten a handle on the fire but Texas Forest Service officials say it's still an active event and Wednesday's rain will likely not put the fire out completely.

Wednesday Afternoon Update

Overnight rains, lower wind speeds and the work of firefighters has greatly diminished the threat of the Dyer Mill fire. Containment of this fire is now up to 75%.

32 homes have burned and mandatory evacuations remain in place. 80 homes are still threatened by this fire.

For the latest evacuation zone map, click here

*11am Wednesday Update*

Portions of the mandatory evacuation in place on the Dyer Mills Fire have been lifted for residents only. The first evacuation order was put in place Monday afternoon.

As of noon today, Wednesday June 22, 2011, the evacuations have been lifted on the following areas:
County Road 202 (Pine Brook Subdivision)
County Road 201 (Shadow Lake Subdivision)
County Road 306 through to County Road 362
FM 1748
County Road 308
The roadblock on Country Road 304 has been moved back to the intersection of 304 and 344.

The mandatory evacuation remains IN PLACE for:
CR 304 from 344 to CR 302
CR 302 from Lone Star to Micrea

Residents are not permitted to return to these areas. There will be daily assessments on when that can happen safely.

There is significant potential that power, water and phones may not be operating if residents return home. For information, residents can call:
Phones: 936-825-7016
Utilities: 936-825-5100 - Mid-South Synergy
Entergy: 936-825-6525
Emergency responders are still working to contain the fire so be cautious around emergency vehicles and heavy equipment.

For the latest evacuation zone map, click here

10am Wednesday Update*

Even though winds have dropped a bit, firefighters have lost a little ground.

The Texas Forest Service says containment has dropped from 35 to 30 percent.

We're told the fire is still advancing and was about a mile south High Point Elementary and Highway 105.

Approximately 300 acres burned since 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon alone, with about 5,280 acres scorched since the fire started Sunday afternoon.

It's been an all hands on deck situation with at least 14 fire departments responding.

Despite resources on the air and ground the Texas Forest Service tells us they are still short on federal resources.

"We're in competition with New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina for critical fire resources. We have been able to bring in quite a few aircraft, dozers and engines. In fact on the Dyer Mill fire today we are flying a helitanker, two National Guard Chinook helicopters, two National Guard Blackhawk Helicopters and four air tankers," said Mark Stanford, Fire Operations Chief for the Texas Forest Service.

Air resources will be back up in the air after sunrise.

Overnight 10 fire engines are out taking care of hot spots as they pop up.

There will be a public meeting about this fire Wednesday night at 8 o'clock. Only residents who are directly affected by the fire are asked to attend.

It will take place at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Stoneham.

State and local authorities will be on hand to answer questions about this week's fire.

*Previous Update*

The Dyer Mill fire is now considered to be the number one priority for the Texas Forest Service. This opens the door to more aid coming in to assist crews working on battling the blaze.

Three air tankers will be heading into the area tonight to make drops over the burning area.

At last report, the fire burning in Grimes County is 35 percent contained, but continues to threaten homes.

The Dyer Mill fire started near Pappas Rd and is believed to have been sparked by a barbecue pit Sunday.

The evacuation spans 56 sq. miles and will continue into Tuesday, possibly longer depending on the weather.

There will be a community meeting regarding the Dyer Mill Fire in Plantersville/Stoneham, Wednesday night June 22nd at 8p.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 1132 CR 304. The meeting is intended for residents directly impacted by the Dyer Mill Fire in Plantersville/Stoneham.

Click here to listen to the scanners for the latest on this fire

The Houston SPCA is being deployed to Grimes county to provide emergency sheltering for animals affected by the wildfire. Houston SPCA teams are mobilizing and loading supplies necessary to set up a Mobile Animal Shelter (MASH) at the Navasota Auction Barn at 7846 Highway 90 South in Navasota.

For more information call Meera Nandal at 713-869-7722.

Large animals such as livestock can be taken to the Mid Tex auction barn at 5105 Highway 90 South in Navasota.


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