Wildfire Nightmare In Waller Almost Contained

All residents forced out of their homes from the massive tri-county wildfire northwest of Houston are being allowed to return. They're now trying to return to normal.

Riley Road Fire Map
Fire Information as of 9:00am

Started: September 5, 2011

Size: 18,960 acres- Approximate acreage by county: 10,604 acres in Waller County, 6,445 acres in Montgomery County, and 1,909 acres in Grimes County.

Containment: 95%- 100% containment is expected by 9/15/11


Information provided by InciWeb.

The fire broke out last week in Montgomery County and before long it spanned parts of Grimes, Montgomery and Waller Counties, and burned nearly 20 thousand acres. It destroyed 60-homes and damaged 23-others.

Jennifer Duhon is with Waller County, where the majority of the structures were lost. She says residents are being allowed on their property between 11am to 7pm, and must show identification.

"Security is extremely tight right now. We're trying to protect property and homes of the residents that had been impacted by this. So, most residents have been able to at least access their property and determine whether their homes are there or not."

She says they had only one report of a burglary during the evacuation.
Officials say the tri-county wildfire is 95-percent contained, but some people continue to violate the burn ban in the area.

Jimmy Williams is the fire marshal in Montgomery County. He says they've been fielding a steady stream of calls each day reporting illegal burning.

"We've been basically at a zero tolerance policy for two to three months now, and we're issuing the maximum number of citations possible. If we go out and someone's burning illegally that's one citation, if they're burning garbage that's a second citation. And one of the other things we're doing as part of the Montgomery County warrant roundup process that's ongoing at this time, everyone that we contact during illegal burning operations, we're checking them for warrants. If they have any open warrants, then they're going to jail."

Meanwhile, the return to some sense of normalcy is at the top of everyone's with list of priorities. Randy McDaniel is with the Office of  Emergency Management in Montgomery County.

"We have been in contact with FEMA and had teams come in to do damage assessments to provide us accurate data on just exactly what type of destruction we've had. In addition, we have applied to the state for some public assistance. We hope that in the near future we will be able to get those residents who have lost their homes, some type of low cost funding, to help in rebuilding their homes."

State assistance is available through the Texas Disaster Relief Fund, created in 2005 after Hurricane Rita. McDaniel adds he cannot stress the importance of being mindful of what this drought could lead to.

"Any fire, whether its burning trash or even cooking on a grill outside, there is a potential for embers to escape. This is an absolutely unheard of drought that we're experiencing here in the state, and we ask that everyone do what they can to keep fires from occurring."

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...