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Energy & Environment

Hidden Pines Fire Report: Firefighters Saved 400-Plus Properties Despite a Delay in Response Time

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Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT
Fire crews head towards a small fire near Alum Creek Road and Park Road 1C on October 15, 2015.

Bastrop County leaders reviewed the final report on last fall’s Hidden Pines fire today, which found that the 9-1-1 call reporting the fire near Buescher State Park led to a delay in response by the Smithville Fire Department. 

All told, the mid-October fire burned 4,500 acres and destroyed a total of 64 structures, most of them within the first few hours of the fire. The fire wasn’t completely contained until nearly two weeks later.

The 84-page report, which was reviewed by the Bastrop County Commissioners Court today, also details the timeline of the incident.

The fire started October 13, 2015 at around 11:30 a.m. on the Luecke Ranch. A ranch employee noticed the fire had started at around that time and, after an unsuccessful attempt to put the fire out, radioed into the ranch’s headquarters. The ranch headquarters, which is located in Lee County, called 9-1-1 and that call was routed to the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. That delayed the information getting to firefighters in Bastrop County, where the fire was burning.

The Smithville Fire Department was alerted at 12:37, but they weren’t given an exact position for the fire. Firefighters arrived at the fire at 12:54 p.m.

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Credit Bastrop County

That delay, in tandem with fire-prone weather conditions, allowed for the brush fire to become a so-called crown fire – a dangerous fire behavior in which the flames spread along treetops.

The analysis found the majority of the properties lost were in areas in which that crown fire burned.

Despite the delay, the report says first responders were able to prevent the destruction of more than 400 structures and points out that no one was killed or seriously injured. Among the report’s recommendations is vigilant mitigation of potential fuel for fire around homes – fuel such as vegetation on the ground and low branches of trees. The report says half of the homes destroyed had wooden decks. There’s also a call for the state to pre-position firefighting resources at times of high fire danger.

You can read the full report from the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management below.

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