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Last of Bastrop Fire Evacuees Return Home

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Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
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Evacuated residents listen intently during a meeting last week at the Bastrop Convention Center. The last of the evacuees were allowed to return to their properties this morning.

The remaining evacuees from the Bastrop Complex wildfire are returning home today, some of them still unsure if their houses were among the more than 1,600 that are now estimated to have been destroyed.

The last evacuation orders were lifted at 10 a.m. this morning in the neighborhoods of Eastern Tahitian Village, Pine Forest, McAllister Road, and the remainder of ColoVista.

Twelve days after the wildfire broke out in Bastrop County, firefighters have contained 75 percent of the fire zone’s 50 mile perimeter. While crews battled numerous flare ups overnight, no additional homes were burned.

 “They’re working day and night, and we think that every day that goes by, we’ll be making it safer and safer and safer for our citizens,” Bastrop County Emergency Operations Coordinator Mike Fisher said during today’s morning briefing. “I feel very comfortable that we’re not going to have a major rekindle of the magnitude that we’ve seen on the Labor Day weekend.”

With boil water orders lifted in the Aqua Water Supply service area and Bluebonnet Electric crews working to restore power, much of the work now shifts to cleaning up and clearing debris so that rebuilding can begin.

On county roads alone, removing debris is estimated to cost $14 million, seven times the county’s annual road and bridge budgets.

“That may not be a lot of money to big cities, but it’s a lot of money to Bastrop County,” Commissioner Clara Becket said. She said the county is requesting financial assistance from the state and federal agencies.

Fire investigators have not yet determined how the blaze started. Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering sought to dispel a rumor that had been circulating online that said police were looking for a vehicle with a specific license plate.

Pickering said that vehicle was found nine days ago and turned out to be owned by a local resident who had a reason to be in the area.

“No one can say they’ve actually seen anyone start any fires,” Pickering said. “At this point, I think it’s just something where that rumor or information was being circulated.”

The Bastrop County Sheriff is cooperating with state and federal investigators to probe the origins of the Bastrop Complex fire and other smaller blazes in the area.

A federal disaster declaration has been extended to include Travis and Williamson Counties, allowing victims of the Steiner Ranch, Spicewood and Leander fires to request financial assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bastrop County has moved its fire emergency information to this website.  Lost and found pets are being posted here.

Among the new fundraisers being organized for wildfire victims is a 5K fun run in Cedar Creek.  Austin-based film director Richard Linklater, who has a home in Bastrop, is holding an advanced screening of his latest movie, Bernie, which was largely filmed in the area.

Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald says tomorrow’s 10:30 a.m. news conference will be the last one they have on the firefighting and recovery efforts until further notice.

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