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Central Texas Wildfire Updates September 8, 2011

Burned trees and ground at Union Chapel Hill area on Hwy 21
Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News and
Burned trees and ground at Union Chapel Hill area on Hwy 21

Find all new updates on the wildfires here.

Update at 5:36 p.m.

Here's where we stand this evening:

The Bastrop Complex fire is still 30 percent contained at about 34,000 acres. Officials say firefighters are focusing on saving undamaged structures. They hope to get a big helping hand from a DC-10 jet airliner that will begin dropping retardant tomorrow morning, up to 12,000 gallons at a time. Another update on Bastrop isn't expected until around 10:30 a.m. Friday. (Story)

Some Bastrop residents were allowed to return to their homes today. Bastrop County's emergency management coordinator Mike Fisher said "the risk is so slight" of flare ups in those areas that he's confident they'll be safe.

Counselors have been helping Bastrop evacuees cope with the stress of the situation. (Story)

The wildfire in Steiner Ranchis now 80 percent contained, up from 75 percent this morning. The Pedernales One/Spicewood fire is 100 percent contained.

Conditions are said to be improving in the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park, all but 100 acres of which has been touched by flames. Firefighters were able to protect most of the historic Depression-era buildings that dot the park. (Story)

You already knew it was a hot summer in Texas. Turns out, it was the hottest summer ever recorded in the United States.

The American Red Cross will distribute supplies to Bastrop County fire victims until 8 p.m. at the Home Depot at 112 Hunters Crossing, Bastrop, TX  78602.

Want to help? has the most authoritative list so far on shows benefiting wildfire victims. The Facebook page Central Texas Wildfire Recovery lists events. You can also now donate $10 to the United Way's Central Texas Wildfire Relief fund by texting "WILDFIRE" to 85944.

If you haven't seen it already, check out this satellite photo of the Bastrop burn zone.

Update at 3:43 p.m.

People whose homes or businesses were ravaged by wildfire are exempt from paying sales tax on some fire recovery-related expenses. The Texas Comptroller says that includes the cost of repairs, charges for cutting dead trees, and services to restore damaged furniture. Full details here.

The air quality in Austin is forecast to be poor tomorrow. The Clean Air Force of Central Texas has issued a Level Orange Ozone Watch for Friday.

The United States Forest Service says a DC-10 airplane with a 12,000 gallon tank will begin dropping fire retardant tomorrow on the wildfire zones.

The Pedernales One/Spicewood fire is now fully contained, but the Pedernales Fire Department needs donations for its firefighters. They’re asking for Vitamin Water Zero, pigskin work gloves and Clif Bars. More details on their Facebook page.

The Lower Colorado River Authority expanded an area of Lake Travis that is being used by planes and helicopters to grab water for firefighting efforts in Central Texas. The lake is now closed for five miles, from Mansfield Dam to Mile Marker 5.

Update at 2:31 p.m.

The wildfire situation issaid to be improving at Bastrop State Park, all but 100 acres of which was scorched by the blaze. Fire crews working long hours managed to save most of the historic 1930s-era structures in the park.

Speaking of long hours, check out these photos of firefighters working the Union Chapel wildfire. Some of them worked 60 hours to contain the 900 acre blaze.

This satellite photo of the Bastrop burn zone gives us another glimpse at the scope of the devastation. The blackened area is about 18 miles long about six miles wide.

Update at 1:09 p.m.

Some Bastrop evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes when police remove roadblocks at 2 p.m. Here is a list of the roads being opened.

Update at 11:58 a.m.

Bastrop officials say the wildfire is still "30 percent contained" but that language may not paint the full picture of the progress being made. Read the story here.

The latest details on the Bastrop Complex fire:

  • 35,000 acres have been scorched. The burn zone is about 18 miles long and 6 miles wide.
  • 1,386 homes have been destroyed.
  • About 5,000 people are evacuated. Close to 400 are in shelters.
  • Bluebonnet Electric released this map showing when it hopes to restore power to the area. The map will be updated as new information becomes available. The utility plans to add a restoration timeline for Tahitian Village sometime tomorrow.
  • The Texas Forest Service says it is not looking for volunteer pilots to fly a DC-10 plane stationed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. A spokesman said the plane cannot fly until Friday, because a retardant dispersal system is still being installed.
  • The Union Chapel fire in Cedar Creek is now under control, and re-entry is occurring today.

Animal control officers went into the evacuation zone to rescue abandoned pets yesterday. Read more about that and see pictures here.

Bastrop County emergency officials released a new fire map this morning on their Facebook page. Download a high-resolution copy of it here.

Media have restricted access to the front lines of the fire, but the Texas Army National Guard has been posting images of the battle to its Flickr profile.

Update 7:50 a.m.

      We’re learning more about the devastation in Bastrop County.  Bastrop’s Emergency Management Center told KUT News this morning that 1,386 homes have been destroyed in the Bastrop area. 

        InciWeb has posted a Google map showing where the Bastrop fire is, you can take a look at that here.

      Update 6:15 a.m.

  • The Texas Forest Service says the larger fire in Bastrop County is still 30 percent contained as of late last night.
  • J.J. Wittig, an Assistant Fire Chief with the Oak Hill Fire Department, is helping to oversee the fires in Austin/Travis County. He says while the Spicewood Fire is 100 percent contained, firefighters will probably still be there for a few more days to put out fires inside the perimeter and to control hot spots.


  • Bastrop Middle School did stay open as a shelter last night but it will be closing as a shelter this morning.
  • The Bastrop information line says five other shelters will remain open for fire victims: Celebration Church LBA, Ascension Catholic Church in Bastrop, Bastrop Christian Outreach Center , the Smithville Recreation Center and Elgin Family Worship
  • Bastrop County officials have posted a partial list of the addresses of homes they have confirmed as destroyed by the wildfire there. Keep in mind this is only a partial list and officials will be updating it as they get more information. Find the list and a map on Bastrop County's website
  • Members of Texas Task Force 1 are conducting a search of the fire area- looking for victims, animals, and biological or ecological hazards
  • Bastrop and Smithville ISD have canceled classes for the rest of the week
  • Burn bans continue in Bastrop, Blanco, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties
Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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