As fire roars, homeowners wait - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

As fire roars, homeowners wait

April 21, 2007

Waycross  -- Firefighters remain on the front lines working to protect homes, and they know they'll stay busy trying to stay ahead of the flames all weekend.

Here s the latest look at South Georgia s wildfires by the numbers. The Ware County fire grew by nearly 10,000 acres Friday. It now has scorched 42,000 acres and is only 35% contained.

A hundred-sixty firefighters are on the job, using 24 engines, 4 helicopters, and 4 air tankers, and costing $1.5million. Many people forced to evacuate their homes this week still haven't been allowed back to their neighborhoods and don't know if their homes survived. Those folks had a lot of questions for Georgia Forestry officials at a town hall meeting about the wildfire Friday night in Waycross.

At this point, the firefighters continue main objective is to save as many homes as possible. The evacuees from those homes came looking for answers- their biggest question is when will they be able to go home? These sisters born and raised in Waycross, still all live on the same road where their parents live. Late Monday afternoon, they learned they would have to leave their beloved homes.

Selena Thomas said, "They come down and say, ‘you're going to have to evacuate, it's coming close to you.' So we had to leave.

Amanda Stewart said, "What do you pack, you know? Pack some clothes, and headed out, which we did get a few photos, because you don't know if your house is going to burn or not.

Losing their homes to fire would be devastating; they say it's not the material things that matter. Eva Jane Thomas told us, "If it got to our homes and any of them was in harms way, they could let ours burn because I don't want anyone losing a husband or a daddy for that."

As such a close-knit family one of the hardest part is not being together in such a trying time. All four sisters are staying at the homes of different friends in family members. "We're just not together, and we're used to being together. We want to be together."

After the first night of evacuation, around 42 people were staying in the school shelter. Now it's empty, as people all over the area have opened their homes. "If you're from the south you're really blessed, because you do have somewhere to go."

Somewhere to go, but not the one place they really want. "I would just like to know when I could go home."

There's still no immediate end is sight for the fire though, so officials still aren't able to say when they will be able to return home. This family did tell me though, their firefighter friends have been able to check on their homes, and fortunately, they are still standing.

Congressman Jack Kingston had high praise for the fire crews battling the wildfire, and also for the residents for their good spirits.

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