Wildfires Burn Across Bastrop County and Travis CountySeptember 6, 2011
According to officials, the Labor Day weekend ended with an enormous wildfire which destroyed hundreds of homes and triggered mass evacuations in Bastrop County, Texas. As of Tuesday morning, authorities report that the fire continues to burn out of control. Reportedly, the fire started Sunday afternoon in the Lost Pines area northeast of Bastrop before moving an uncontested 16 miles and jumping the Colorado River twice.
According to Bastrop County officials, the 16 by 6 mile fire had burned more than 30,000 acres and destroyed at least 600 homes. Sources say around 250 firefighters have been working around the clock to battle the blaze. Reportedly, Bastrop County officials evacuated 5,000 people from 19 sub-divisions in the area and around 600 people were forced to stay in shelters on Monday night.
As of Tuesday morning, the Bastrop Emergency Management Director has reported that the fire is "nowhere near controlled" and the county is becoming increasingly concerned with a smaller yet growing blaze south of the city. Many of Bastrop's residents have expressed their concern about the property damage the fire will cause, as many did not have an opportunity to take damage preventing measures before evacuating.
According to the Texas Forest Service (TFS), dry air, high winds and drought have fueled the blaze. Further, the agency says the ferocity and speed of the fire has made it unsafe to fight from the ground. According to one TFS spokesperson, the fire is "a monster and it's zero percent contained." Sources say the situation became so desperate on Sunday, that the Austin Fire Department issued a public appeal for any and all available firefighters in the area to report for duty. Reportedly, instead of fighting the fire from the ground, the state of Texas put together an air fleet including National Guard helicopters and four heavy tanker planes.
Sources say the state also brought in a tanker from South Dakota. Sources say around two-thirds of the 6,000-acre Bastrop State Park has already been consumed. The park is home to many state treasures and even some endangered species. Reportedly, the park and several major highways in the area were closed, but a handful of people whose RVs were left overnight in the popular park were being allowed in to retrieve them.
According to reports, Travis County, Texas has also suffered 20 destroyed and at least 30 damaged homes from a separate fire. Sources say in the Austin area, more than 1,000 homes were under mandatory evacuation and 25 homes were lost in a third fire.
According to the governor's office, at least 40 TFS aircraft were involved in the firefighting Monday along with a half-dozen Texas military aircraft. Reportedly, since the beginning of the wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires burning more than 3.6 million acres. Reportedly, in the wake of the fire, Governor Rick Perry has cut short a visit to South Carolina and canceled a planned trip to California.
Officials say FEMA will also arrive this week to analyze the damage.