A new fence around the quarantined site at Mount Carmel should be finished by the end of the week, Texas Water Commission officials said Monday.
After the state reduced the quarantine from the property’s 77 acres to just around the compound, looters began plundering the ruins for souvenirs. The compound burned to the ground April 19, killing almost 80 Branch Davidians.
“The fence will be chain link and have barbed wire on the top in order to give us better control of the quarantined area,” said Bob Ferry, TWC field investigator. “Our goal is to keep things as preserved as possible since we are dealing with private property.”
The state quarantined Mount Carmel after the fire, citing untreated sewage, standing water and lead contamination in the ground from the arsenal built up by the cult.
Branch Davidians wanting to bury victims at a cemetery on the property asked the state to reduce the quarantine. After soil and water tests revealed no threat of disease, the state granted their wish. The compound is being fenced off, however, until the state can clean up the site.
No burials apparently have taken place yet on the property.
The water tower at Mount Carmel, already on its side, was being cut into scrap Monday for salvage.
Cult member Peter Gent was shot and killed on the top of the water tower when agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided Mount Carmel on Feb. 28. The agents were attempting to arrest cult leader Vernon Howell for possession of automatic weapons. Four agents and six cult members died in the shootout.
John Ellis, who describes himself as the business manager of Renos Avraam, a surviving Branch Davidian who is being held as a material witness, sent our literature saying the destruction of the water tower would remove Mount Carmel’s lone remaining landmark.
Ellis wrote that destiny had decreed the site “be a shrine.”
Waco attorney Gary Coker, however, said surviving Branch Davidians whom he represents approved selling the water tower for scrap metal.
“That’s what they wanted to do,” Coker said. “They’ll get about 35 cents a pound for it. It was their choice.”