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Texas

Weather Could Complicate Bastrop Firefighting Efforts

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Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
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The Bastrop wildfire is now 70 percent contained, but incoming winds and hot temperatures could bedevil a marathon firefighting effort that has dragged on for ten days.

Critical fire weather is forecast for today, with winds rising to 15 miles per hour. Red Flag fire weather is forecast for tomorrow, with wind gusts of up to 20 miles per hour predicted.

“Red Flag on Labor Day Weekend helped drive this fire to the monstrous extent that it is now,” Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher said in today’s morning press briefing. “The weather today and tomorrow is very serious.”

While the 50 mile perimeter of the blaze is now mostly contained, there are still unburned materials –trees, buildings, fence posts, utility poles, and other structures - within the 34,000 acre burn zone.  Fisher pleaded with people to keep an eye out for any flare ups.

But despite the dire circumstances, Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald urged people to remain optimistic about the recovery process.

“Bastrop County is going to be okay. We’re going to work our way through this process,” McDonald said.

Progress is being made on restoring infrastructure. Bluebonnet Electric had 179 crews in the field yesterday working to rebuild power lines. An additional ten crews are waiting to deploy.

Aqua Water Supply’s CEO Bill Loven said engineers will receive lab results back this afternoon that could allow the utility to lift a boil water order for part of its service area known as Zone 4. 

County officials yesterday updated its list of structures confirmed to be destroyed. While the estimate of lost homes stands at 1,554, these addresses have been checked by crews using global positioning devices.

More people are being allowed back into their homes today under Phase II of the re-entry plan. But safety officials warned people to take precautions as they head back, and seek reliable, local contractors if they need their property cleared of debris.

Yesterday’s re-entry process along parts of FM 1441 off Highway 21 went “relatively smoothly,” Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering said.  

“We were able to get people back into their homes without a lot of difficulty,” Pickering said.

However, a plan announced yesterday to allow residents of Tahitian Village east and parts of McAllister back to their properties one day sooner than expected was canceled because of weather conditions. Those evacuees must now wait until Thursday at 10 a.m. before they can go home.  

McDonald, the Bastrop County Judge, said all financial donations should be funneled through Bastrop Christian Ministerial Alliance, “if you want to make sure our residents are receiving those donations.” BCMA’s numbers are 512-332-8977 and 512-332-8661.

The BCMA’s Bob Long told reporters this morning that material donations have been pouring in.

“We have filled warehouses and getting more warehouses,” Long said.