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Two People Killed In Bastrop Fire

Three people watch the fire from a livestock auction house yesterday in Bastrop
Photo by Matt Largey, KUT News
Three people watch the fire from a livestock auction house yesterday in Bastrop

Law enforcement officials discovered the bodies of two people today who were apparently killed by the now-34,000 acre fire in Bastrop County. The identities of the victims and the circumstances surrounding their deaths have been withheld until their relatives can be notified.

Firefighters are finally gaining some traction in battling the epic blaze, which has destroyed 550 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 people.  Most of those evacuees have little way of knowing whether their homes are among the 550 destroyed, and that lack of knowledge is stirring anxiety.

“We have achieved some containment [of the Bastrop fire] from the operations out there today,” Bastrop Emergency Operations Coordinator Mike Fisher said in an afternoon news conference. He explained that they can't accurately assess the level of containment until the current shift of firefighters returns from the field.

“We’re hopeful that, beginning with this 12 hour period, we’ll see an improvement in increasing percent of containment until we get to that 100 percent level,” Fisher said.  He said the fire has been expanding to the east and to the west.

Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald explained that firefighting resources that were severely lacking in the initial outbreak of the fire have now arrived. Those extra resources, combined with improved weather conditions, are helping build momentum against the blaze, which can now be seen from outer space.

“When we first started, it was more about getting individuals out, evacuating, because we didn’t have the resources to be able to fight it anyway we needed to,” McDonald said. “The weather conditions weren’t ideal for fighting fires. We’re glad those things are improving.”

Wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour fanned the flames on Sunday. But today's winds have slowed to less than 10 miles an hour. Humidity levels have also increased and temperatures are lower.

Meanwhile, another smaller fire continues to burn in Bastrop County. The Union Chapel fire has scorched 800 acres and destroyed 27 homes. About 200 people have been evacuated from that community. That fire is 15 percent contained, Fisher said.

“Crews that are on that fire, some of them have been there for 52 hours,” Fisher said. “We are in the process of trying to get them some fresh resources in there for overnight.”

The Bastrop Independent School District says it will remain closed to students until Monday.

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 Twitter @KUTnathan.
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