Texas wildfire evacuees are seeking temporary shelter in campgrounds and RV parks while their homes and neighborhoods are inspected to see if and when it will be safe for them to return home.
While more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed in the wildfires during the past week, others have sustained partial damage or smoke damage that must be repaired before families can return to their homes, according to a news release.
“A number of parks are filling up with evacuees, insurance adjusters and others involved in the wildfire cleanup effort,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“We were already nearly 80% full when the fires began, but now we have filled the park up with evacuees and insurance adjusters,” said Juanita Voigt, co-owner of 128-site Highway 71 RV Park in Cedar Creek.
Voigt said some of the evacuees staying at her park had borrowed RVs from family members. Local church groups were also making two RVs available to families in need of temporary shelter.
Voigt said her park was also providing two weeks of free camping to evacuees who had not yet received insurance compensation or were otherwise facing immediate economic hardship as a result of the fire.
Gwen Craig, co-owner of Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring and Timberline Village RV Village in Magnolia, said she has been receiving evacuees and insurance adjusters at both of her parks. “A lot of (evacuees) called who were really upset. They didn’t know if they would have to stay or not” because of the uncertainties involving the fires.
Craig said she invited several evacuating families who called her to come to her park with their kids on Sunday. “We opened our pool area up to people who just needed to take the kids and have a fun day,” she said, adding, “We normally try to assist and help in situations like this.”
Craig said her guests have also been participating in food, water and snack collection efforts for firefighters. “We’ve been collecting protein bars, snacks, bottled water and Gatorade,” she said, adding that the donations are taken to a collection point for fighters who have been working the Magnolia fire.
Smoke from wildfires 50 miles away cover the horizon on the edge of Austin, Texas.
Craig said she’s continuing to receive calls from evacuees and that some callers are looking for long-term campsites, which means they probably will have to camp out for several months while their homes are repaired or rebuilt.
“People are still in shock,” said Dale Slaughter of the Hobo Camp in Bastrop. “They don’t know how long they’re going to need a place.”
At least one Texas campground was also damaged by the wildfires.
Toad Hollow RV Park, a 30-site park in Bastrop, was largely destroyed by the fire. “Our main building and bathhouse survived, but everything else is gone,” said Judy Horn, the park’s owner, adding that many of her guests had lost their RVs in the fire. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) were at her park today (Sept. 13).