Bastrop Residents to Return by Thursday

Sep 12, 2011

Public safety officials hope to allow all people evacuated by the Bastrop wildfire to return to their property by Thursday. The re-entry plan may be moved up if conditions are favorable. People in Tahitian Village who were not to return home until Thursday, will be allowed back in Wednesday at 10 a.m.

The blaze that has blackened 34,000 acres and destroyed an estimated 1,554 homes is now 60 percent contained, according to the Texas Forest Service. Hundreds of firefighters are still scouring the burn zone and extinguishing hot spots and flare ups.

A list of 22 people who never checked in at emergency shelters was released yesterday. All but two people have reported back by calling 512‐332‐8813 or 512‐332‐8856. The two people still being sought are Arlene Page and Steve Ingram.

Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering was doubtful they had perished in the blaze.

“We don’t know if they’re actual residents. It may just be a summer home or something like that,” he said. Pickering added that the elite search-and-rescue team Texas Task Force 1 will have completed an entire grid search of the burn zone by 2 p.m. today.

Utility service is gradually being restored to the area. Aqua Water Supply is working particularly hard on the Circle D/KC Estates area, general manager Bill Loven said. Crews are disinfecting a water system today. If all goes well, that water should be drinkable without boiling by Tuesday afternoon.

Bluebonnet Electric will restore power to some homes today. But those in the worst affected areas may not receive power until Wednesday, September 21, according to the utility's grid restoration timeline.

Last night, the Federal Emergency Management Agency initiated a temporary shelter and assistance program, making wildfire victims eligible for money to pay for nights in a hotel. Texas Governor Rick Perry launched a similar program this weekend.  

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low interest disaster loans both to businesses and individuals looking to rebuild.

One of the longer term issues in recovering from the wildfire will be debris management. Downed trees have to be removed so as not to provide fuel for future wildfires. Damaged and destroyed properties will require removing large amounts of burned building materials and other debris.

Public safety officials said they are working on a debris management plan. In the meantime, they are asking people to double-bag any food waste that spoiled during the evacuation, and tomorrow, they’ll have a place for people to take it.

Children returned to class at Bastrop and Smithville school districts today after week-long closures. Bastrop ISD adjusted bus routes to accommodate evacuated children staying at hotels. The Smithville district sent busses to Smithville Recreation Center and First Baptist Church to pick up children staying there.

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