Hidden Pines Fire Growth Slows, 48 Residential Structures Lost
UPDATE Saturday 7:00 pm: Bastrop County officials say they have stopped the Hidden Pines fire in its tracks, not allowing it to burn any more acreage or structures Saturday. After falling to 40% contained overnight Friday into Saturday, the Texas Forest Service says the fire is again 50% contained.
County officials say some evacuated families will be allowed to return to their homes, with more areas being opened Sunday.
UPDATE 8:30 pm: Fire officials are reporting more progress in containing the Hidden Pines fire tonight:
UPDATE 5:15 pm: County officials say conditions did not worsen as much as expected today. The Hidden Pines fire is now 40% contained and has burned 4,500 acres. Despite the progress, 14 new structures have been lost, putting the total at 48.
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape told residents gathered at the Smithville Recreation Center that he believes "we're on the downhill side of this."
EARLIER: Officials in Bastrop County said Friday the Hidden Pines Fire grew only about 200 acres in the past 12 hours, thanks to higher humidity and calmer winds. It’s now burned 4,582 acres. It is still just 25% contained.
Despite the slower growth of the fire, several more structures burned overnight, bringing the total to 40.
Officials say early indications are that the fire was started by a farming accident involving a shredder. They cautioned that forensics were not complete, so that’s only their initial take on the potential cause.
Bastrop County Emergency Management coordinator Mike Fisher said this morning that a cold front moving into the area this afternoon will bring wind and lower the humidity – which could enable the fire’s growth. He says they’ve moved crews to the southwest part of the fire, to create bigger containment lines in an attempt to keep the fire from threatening more homes.
“The weather change this afternoon is going to change the dynamic of the fire. We don’t know exactly how that’s going to be but my instructions earlier on the safety of those firefighters was to take all those things into consideration,” Fisher said. “I don’t know how much progress we’re going to be making because of that, but I’m not going to sacrifice somebody’s safety for progress.”
Officials don’t expect to re-open any evacuated areas today, due to the uncertainty around the weather conditions. 169 people checked into the Smithville Recreation Center, which is receiving evacuees. Only a handful stayed in the center overnight.
Officials say they’ve kept highways in the area of the fire open, but smoke could force them to close some roads.