Some Ware residents allowed to return home - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Some Ware residents allowed to return home

April 23, 2007


Waycross -- Over 1,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes last Monday when this fire first broke out.
Another 5000 received a voluntary evacuation request as heavy smoke was threatening to cover their homes.

Finally some of those homeowners were allowed to return home to see their houses for the first time in a week and hope they were still standing.

Highway 84 in Ware County still remains closed for drivers, but many people who live on or near that road and evacuated a week ago were finally allowed to return to their homes.

A week ago today, Darrell Lankford woke up to see an unusual sight in his neighborhood. "It was blazing pretty high up here. It got all around us," he said.

As the wild fire raged on, he was forced to evacuate his home and had no idea when he would return.

"Then when you left, you couldn't get back in of course." Or if his home would be there when he did. "It's a scary feeling to know you could loose everything you've got."

His home was still standing when he was finally let beyond the barricades. But many of his neighbors weren't so lucky. "We had a pastor who had surgery and we had another pastor sit in for us. He lost his home and everything."

Down the road, car after car is ruined, and a chimney is the only sign a house once stood on one lot. Just one of the reminders that a danger still lurks beyond the tree line.

"Everyday you come out here and still see campfires burning here or there up in the woods."

But once those fire are finally put out, he has no doubt the community will come together to pick up the pieces, and help those coping with a loss of their homes.

"I'm sure they'll be supportive. Everyone sticks together in these small towns anyway."

Even though some home owners were allowed through the barricades back to their homes, they must still be ready to evacuate again at a moments notice if the fire turns back in their direction.

Many families chose to stay in their homes, even though the fire burns on all around them. The Bateson family was one of those who chose to protect their home front.

They've put sprinklers on the roof and kept their yard wet, but have taken some extra measures to assure the Forestry Commission sees them from above and the fire fighters notices them from the ground.

"We've just been waiting on it and decided to make some signs to make the fire fighters feel better," Lisha Bateson said.

"We just got a little board and wanted to make sure they know where we are," Les Bateson said.

Those signs read 'Thanks Fire Fighters,' 'Get her done,' and 'Water Here!' On their roof, just in case that fire creeps to close for comfort and the helicopter above need some target practice.

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