By Denton Josey, Student Reporter
Daley Anderson’s family lost a shed, a boat, their fence, and they used all the egg nog they could find to save their home in December.
Like many of the people in Cross Plains, the Anderson family gets their water from a well. When wildfires approached this winter, many people lost electricity and therefore the ability to draw water from their wells, so without water the Anderson’s used whatever was available, such as egg nog, orange juice and even pickle juice to throw on the fire.
Though the Andersons saved their home, the smoke damage was everywhere inside the house. Their insurance company sent a cleaning crew and gave the Andersons $24,000 to repair the damages.
“I’m really lucky that our house was OK, but I’m more thankful that my family was OK,” said Daley Anderson, sophomore broadcast journalism major.
While the Anderson family was fortunate, on Dec. 28, 160 homes were destroyed and two elderly women died in a town of 1,063 people. Several thousand acres were burned by the fires, said Cross Plains resident Myrna Mitchell.
“It’s hard when your house is standing and someone’s you care deeply about is gone,” Mitchell said. “You can’t help but feel a little guilty.”
Some welders were working on a fence line six miles from town, and the sparks caused the dry grass to catch flame and then it “spread like wildfire” before the welders could get it under control, Anderson said.
The 40 mph winds changed direction three times, making things very difficult for the volunteer fire department in Cross Plains, Mitchell said. Aid for Cross Plains came from 33 other fire departments, some from as far as Fort Worth.
“People’s efforts and God’s grace saved us,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who has lived in Cross Plains for 30 years, said it was “an awesome fire” that reached a heat index of 2,000 degrees. It was “every person’s nightmare for small towns” Mitchell said.
“In ’94 a tornado came through, but it was nothing compared with this. The destruction was immense,” Mitchell said.
The downtown area of Cross Plains was kept safe thanks to the “miraculous job” done by the firefighters, Mitchell said. People have begun to clean up, build new homes, and volunteers feed people daily.
Businesses from the surrounding areas have sent food and donated money for the victims of the fire. An unnamed Abilene business even donated new beds for victims who lost everything.
“We’re bouncing back,” Mitchell said. “The community spirit is just awesome because God is helping people.”
Within the next few weeks, donation money will be distributed to victims by the fund set up at the Texas Heritage Bank where Mitchell works.
“God has seen us through it all,” Mitchell said. “Out of the ashes has come hope and promise that our lives will be even better.”