Residents, pets evacuate fire zone

Published 4:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

By Staff
Hope ongoing efforts
will contain fire soon
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — Sleeping on a cot in the Belhaven Volunteer Fire Department building is not something Bob Searle had planned for his first year of retirement.
A resident of Waterway Landing in Hyde County, Searle and his wife, Pamela, were evacuated from their home Tuesday evening because of its nearness to the wildfire burning more than 40,000 acres in Hyde, Washington and Tyrrell counties.
Hyde County Emergency Management Coordinator Tony Spencer issued the evacuation order for the small community east of Ponzer around 6 p.m. Tuesday. It was then that prevailing winds shifted and began pushing the fire and smoke southward, toward Searle’s home. It’s the second time in a week the couple and their eight cats have left their home because of the fire.
An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Searle said the first evacuation was the scarier of the two.
The fire grew to 40,195 acres Tuesday afternoon, according to reports from the N.C. Forest Service, which is working with local and federal agencies to contain and extinguish the blaze. A passing weather front and an afternoon thunderstorm near the fire caused some spot fires that were controlled within hours, according to a Forest Service update issued Wednesday. A spot fire south of New Lake prompted Tuesday’s evacuation order, which affected 50 homes, including the Searle’s.
American Red Cross volunteers hosted eight people from Waterway Landing on Tuesday night and more were expected Wednesday. Cots have been set up at the Belhaven Fire Department, and the Red Cross has reserved the Wilkinson Center, which can accommodate an additional 100 evacuees if needed.
The Searle’s eight cats have found a home away from home at the Belhaven Fire Department as well. They are being cared for by members of Chowan County Animal Control, who responded to the emergency with a Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailer — one of five such vehicles in the state. The trailer is equipped with cages to house animals. It provides animal-control personnel the tools to decontaminate pets and treat them.
Searle said two of five families that live in his small community stayed put Tuesday night, but one of the two was expected to evacuate Wednesday. Searle said he and his wife planned to remain at the shelter at east through Thursday, but they are not sure when they would return home.