GRIMES COUNTY, Texas – A wildfire that’s been burning in Grimes County since Sunday was 95 percent contained Thursday afternoon, and all evacuation orders were lifted, the Texas Forest Service said.
The blaze, known as the Dyer Mill Fire, has charred more than 5,280 acres and forced 1,800 homes and businesses to evacuate.
Harley Mullenix, a junior firefighter, may have saved her grandparents’ lives when the flames tore through the area on Sunday.
"I called because I was on the fire with the firefighter," she said. "I have to stay in the truck ‘cause I’m a junior. But I told my grandparents that they have to get out of the house."
Mullenix says she knows what she’ll miss most.
"Walking in the front door after school every day."
Some of the evacuation orders were lifted on Wednesday, when rain helped firefighters gain ground on the fire. The rest were lifted Thursday afternoon.
Residents who were allowed to return after Wednesday’s downpour said they’d been watching the weather with great interest.
Joe Kwitkowski, a resident of the Pinebrook Subdivision, said he and neighbors had beaten flames back from their homes on Sunday using garden hoses. Since then, he’d been staying at a motel.
He and his neighbors were happy to be headed home.
"I’m going to drink some beers," Kwitkowski said. "Chill out. How’s that? And cook a hell of a dinner!"
Robert Els, another resident who returned home on Thursday, said while he managed to save his home, his storage sheds are gone.
"Three aluminum boats, a fiberglass boat, a wooden antique wooden boat," Els said.
Els has no insurance to replace what he’s lost, but he says he’s comforted by the fact he could’ve lost so much more.
Officials warned residents to use caution in areas affected by the fire. They said there are still safety issues, like burned trees that could fall, traffic from emergency responders and vehicles and possible damage to power lines and utility poles.
Officials also said there was a strong possibility that power, water and phones might not be operating in evacuated areas.
For more information, residents can call:
The Texas Forest Service said the Dyer Mill Fire was sparked by a backyard barbecue grill.
It’s believed to have destroyed more than 70 homes and other buildings since Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.