ETX boy scouts home safe after wildfires force evacuation
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
It was an emotional reunion for dozens of families as an East Texas boy scout troop returned home from Colorado. Just two days ago, they were face-to-face with a massive wildfire.
The East Peak fire in southern Colorado has burned more than 9,000 acres. About 20 homes and the Spanish Peaks Boy Scout Ranch were evacuated.
Friday's reunion brought so much relief to the parents who hadn't spoken to their sons in a week.
Jennifer Carson sat with her daughter, Hope, anxiously awaiting the arrival of her husband and son. They were not alone. The parking lot quickly filled up with family members eager to welcome Troop 369 home.
"I think my heart is very guarded and I think once they pull up, it's going to gush just knowing that they're back and knowing that they're safe," said Jennifer.
When a wildfire came barreling toward their Colorado scout camp, the troops acted fast.
"The scouts are trained to do that. If it had been, like, a family camp or any other type of camp, they might not have been able to get everybody out," she said.
The sight of their bus brought cheers. Everyone was home safe, after quite an adventure.
"We looked across the valley and saw smoke. I got the binoculars and saw flames," said Troop 369 Scout Master Paul Williamson. This was Williamson's last trip before retiring as scout master, and Friday was his birthday.
Williamson said in 20 minutes, all 200 people at the camp had been accounted for. All the boys could take were their day-packs and water bottles.
"When the signal went off, which was a siren, we started down the trail," said Williamson, who saw the scout laws of obedience and preparedness put to the test.
"You should have seen the boys-- 15- and 16-year-old boys-- directing us as to what to do from our camp. It was an affirmation of the scouting program," he said.
"I love scouting. I think there's nothing out there that trains boys to be men like this, and they got to put all of that into practice this week," said Jennifer.
Jennifer's son was one of the Boy Scout leaders.
"We got [the scouts] all together and walked down the hill. We were sent into cars that drove us down dirt roads in the back of pickups," said Ancel Carson.
"Without God's grace, we wouldn't have made it," said Williamson.
The clothing and equipment that were lost can be replaced over time, but the experience is one that will stick with them forever.
The troop's scout master says the scouts representing East Texas received a lot of compliments for staying calm and knowing what to do in an emergency.