Many still evacuated; Red Cross center stays open - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Many still evacuated; Red Cross center stays open

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April 19, 2007

Ware County -- More than one thousand people in Ware County remain evacuated from their homes because of the wildfire.  Fourteen structures have been destroyed, and hundred of homes remain in harms way. 

Many neighborhoods remain sealed off, and some homeowners trying to get back to their homes to check on them were turned away.

The cloud of smoke continues to billow from several of the fires.   The fire burned an entire area near Ruskin Elementary School.  Along Smith Road residents were close to being evacuated Tuesday night.  They say smoke filled their neighborhood and the smell of the fire was awful.

"It's just horrible, you can't breathe in other words and you panic and you think that you are worse off than you probably are at the time." Said homeowner Kay Smith.

The fire is now 35% contained, but that doesn't mean that's under control.  It's still burned about 25,000 acres and continues to threaten homes, although that threat isn't as great as the winds settle down.

The Forestry Commission said even when they do bring this fire under control, they still expect hot spots to urn for weeks in some areas.

People have been cautioned about traveling through Ware County because of thick smoke that's blanketed several highways and lowered visibility along local roads and highways.

The American Red Cross was to close their Emergency Overnight Shelter, but it remains open due to shifting winds. They're opening what they're calling a service center to deal with residential needs Friday.

Monday night there were more than 100 people staying at the shelter at Waycross Middle School.  Tuesday night that number dropped to 70 and Wednesday night that number had dropped to two.  Many displaced families have found shelter with families or in hotels.

"We've had very good response from the community they seem to be taking care of everything, and everybody's got a place to go at this time with their families or relatives,"  said  John Summerville of the Savannah Red Cross.

That service center at Memorial Stadium will be open daily.