Some students, faculty prepared to evacuate

Wildfires: No access to information during evacuations

By Megan Ellis
On April 21, 2011

  • Volunteers load water and more from donations to help the firefighting efforts. Pam Belcher

Wildfires have torn across Texas, destroying more than one million acres since January 1, according to the Texas Forest Service.

Dry weather and high winds continue to increase that number.

The 36 West Texas counties, including Tom Green County, have seen more than 600,000 acres of rural land burned as of Wednesday April 20.

CJ Norvell, public information officer for the Texas Forest Service, said these numbers are huge and very uncharacteristic of Texas.

The majority of the affected areas are rural, Norvell said. One non-residential building in the San Angelo area was destroyed, but firefighters saved thousands of homes.

"Our highest priority is the residential areas," she said.

Many volunteers helped fight these wildfires.

    "I have been fighting the fires since they started," said volunteer firefighter Thomas Stubbs, senior.

The fires have affected some students, faculty and staff.

Communications, Mass Media and Theatre Lecturer Tony Blair had an evacuation scare before the wind changed the direction of the fire.

    "Luckily, we didn't have to leave because the winds finally changed directions and due to the efforts of all the amazing firefighters," Blair said. "We received a desperate text from a friend who needed trailers to move animals from ranches near Highway 277 North."

    Blair said the Texas Department of Transportation was building a fire break along Highway 277 to help contain the fires.

    "I hope it will finally be contained, but I think it will take a good rain to finally end these fires," he said.

    Junior Amanda Fowler also had an evacuation scare.

She said the hardest part of the evacuation was finding accurate information.  

    "The most information we could get was from Facebook," she said. "Who knows how true everything is on there?"

    Fowler said she and her husband were prepared to evacuate their home outside Grape Creek only to unpack the next day.

    "We just stayed home and tried to find any information we could," Fowler said. "The fire never came [any] closer to us and we got to unpack our bags the next day."

    Sophomore Paul Holtzclaw said he and his family were evacuated from their home in Quail Valley last Friday, but were able to return the next day.

    Holtzclaw said he was also unable to find updated information.

    "At no time during the evacuation were we able to get updates from either Standard Times online, KLST, or the Tom Green County Sheriff's Office," Holtzclaw said.

    ASU Community Relations Director Becky Brackin, organized a donation drive on Friday, April 15 with ASU police's help. They collected bottled water, snacks, and monetary donations to help the firefighting efforts.

     "We took four trailer loads to Grape Creek, two trailer loads to Robert Lee and two loads to the coliseum for evacuees," said Skip Bolding, director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management. "We also raised almost $6,500 in monetary donations."

    There are many shelters and donation drop-off points around town including West Texas Broadcasting, Stubbs he said.

    According to CNN, Governor Rick Perry requested that Texas be named a disaster area. Fires have affected 202 of the state's 254 counties.


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