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Texas

Winds and Low Humidity Complicate Bastrop Fire Containment

tahitianvillage2.jpg
Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com
A home in the Bastrop neighborhood of Tahitian Village which was completely destroyed.

An increase in wind speeds and a drop in humidity this afternoon have caused some flare ups in the Bastrop Complex fire, a 34,000 acre blaze that has destroyed at least 1,386 homes.

“This is still a very active fire,” Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher said in an afternoon press briefing.

He said crews have shifted their focus to protecting undamaged structures outside the burn area, instead of trying to extinguish flames in already blackened wild lands.

“So far, they’ve been 100 percent successful with that,” Fisher said.

The level of containment of the Bastrop Complex fire stands at 30 percent. The fire’s perimeter is about 50 miles, and the containment zones are not always continuous, Fisher said.

Some evacuees were allowed to return to their properties today, but others are growing increasingly frustrated after five days of uncertainty. The County updated its list of destroyed houses today in the Circle D/KC Estates area and the Pine Forest neighborhood, adding another 134 homes to the list of more than 200 properties confirmed by firefighter using GPS coordinates.

In one anecdote intended to illustrate the remaining danger from the natural disaster, Fisher explained how two Bluebonnet Electric workers had to be lifted out by helicopter when they were cornered by an unpredicted flare up. Both employees were unharmed.

Tomorrow morning, crews will get a big helping hand in the form of a DC-10 jet airliner capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of fire retardant. Fire crews working overnight will help identify where the retardant can be targeted. The airplane is owned by the United States Forest Service.

Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering says more than 200 officers are patrolling the area, trying to ensure that only authorized residents are allowed to re-enter the evacuation zone. He says police have received no reports of looting.

Emergency management crews are also putting together Phase II of their re-entry plan. Fisher, the county’s emergency management chief, said it will be matter of “days, not hours” before everyone would be allowed back in. He also indicated that evacuees would not be permitted to re-enter at once, in an effort to avoid traffic chaos.

The next update from Bastrop officials is planned for Friday morning around 10:30 a.m.

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