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Crews Working Through the Night To Contain Bastrop Blaze

Update at 8:15 pm: Firefighters will work through the night to contain a 1,000 acre wildfire in Bastrop County, a jurisdiction that is still trying to recuperate from one of the worst wildfires in Texas’ recent history. Emergency management officials say the fire is 25 percent contained.

Thirty homes were evacuated as a precaution, although no structures were damaged. The evacuations will remain in place throughout the night.

A small army of aircraft helped fire crews swiftly get a foothold in their battle against the blaze, which began mid-afternoon at the Griffith League Scout Ranch at Oak Hill Cemetery Road near FM 2336.

A DC-10 air tanker, two C-130 Hercules aircraft, a pair of single-engine “crop duster” style airplanes and helicopters were dispatched from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and dropped 60,000 gallons of flame retardant in what the Texas Forest Service described as “an aggressive assault to stop the fires.”

“Right now, there wasn’t a lot of fire activity in the state like there was a month ago, so the air assets were readily available,” Texas Forest Service spokesman John Nichols told KUT News. “They got a lot of good flights, put a lot of retardant out on that fire today.”

The air tankers cannot fly after dark, so it will be up to ground crews to work through the night on containing the fire and extinguishing hot spots. Bulldozers will create “fire lines” by pushing away dry brush to prevent the blaze from spreading.

“They’ll probably to get most of the thing lined tonight, at least the areas of concern,” Nichols said. “Then they’ll work in from those lines and just mop in further and further.”

The fire was sparked exactly one month to the day after a fire broke out on Labor Day weekend and grew to 34,000 acres. More than 1,500 homes were destroyed in that epic blaze, which forced area schools to close for a week and prompted the federal government to issue a disaster declaration. 

Update at 7:41 pm:The fire is now 20 percent contained, according to the Texas Forest Service. The blaze is currently estimated to be 1,000 acres. 

Update at 7:07 pm: A wildfire that erupted in Bastrop County this afternoon has grown to 900 acres but is now 10 percent contained, according to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management. No homes have been damaged.

The Bastrop County OEM says as of about 7 p.m., no evacuees had shown up to a shelter at Celebration Community Church on 107 Long Horn Street in Bastrop.

A KXAN viewer flew over the fire in a helicopter, and the TV station posted the video to its website. More images of the wildfire at DigitalTexan and YNN Austin. You can also check out what we’ve culled from Twitter and Facebook at the bottom of this post. 

Update at 6:26 pm: Bastrop County Sheriff’s office has updated the size of the fire to 900 acres from “800 to 900 acres” an hour ago. You can hear a live stream of first responders working the fire at this scanner feed. Select your player and then click on the speaker under the “Listen” column on the left.

Update at 6:00 pm: All available firefighting aircraft in the Austin-area are being put to work on an 800 to 900 acre blaze in Bastrop County that broke out this afternoon. The wildfire has now been named the Old Potato Fire. The area was still in the early recovery stages after a 34,000 acre wildfire scorched the county last month.

Four large air tankers have already refilled at least twice this afternoon: a DC-10 air tanker, a ConVair 471, and two C-130 Hercules aircraft. They are stationed out of the Austin Air Tanker Base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). 

“It’s a constant load and return, which means it’s a pretty challenging fire,” Terry Anderson, a Texas Forest Service spokesman told KUT News.

He says crews have pumped about 50,000 gallons of fire retardant into aircraft over the last few hours. 

Here’s a public, open collaboration Google Map showing the general area of the fire, evacuation zones, and some locations where aircraft have dumped fire retardant. An official from the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office says fire crews are trying to stop the blaze from crossing FM 2336.

View Bastrop wildfire 10/4/2011 in a larger map

 

Update at 5:15 pm: The Bastrop County fire has now spread to "800 or 900 acres", according to the Texas Forest Service. About 40 homes have been evacuated and FM 2336 from Broken Bow to Highway 290.

The blaze broke this afternoon at Griffith League Scout Ranch at Oak Hill Cemetery Road, which comes off FM 2336.

Many firefighting assets are being directed to the blaze, including a DC-10 air tanker, two C-130 Hercules aircraft, two single-engine “crop duster” style airplanes, and two helicopters.

About two dozen fire engines with the Texas Forest Service are being used to combat the wildfire.  

Other developments:

  • The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office says evacuees can go to Celebration Community Church at 107 Long Horn Street, off of Coolwater Drive. The Church is open now. Their phone number is  (512) 332-2537.
  • Bluebonnet Electric Tweeted that it cut power to about four households because of the fire.
  • KVUE-TV is streaming live video of the fire from its tower-mounted camera in Austin.
  • The Texas Forest Service is providing (somewhat delayed) updates on its website. The fire is currently listed as the only active wildfire in the state. 

Update at 4:38 pm:  An assistant coordinator at the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management told KUT News the fire has grown to 600 acres.

A DC-10 air tanker and other assets stationed at Austin Bergstrom International Airport are being brought in to fight the fire, Texas Forest Service spokesman Nick Harrison said. Single-engine air tankers are being flown from McGregor Municipal Airport just west of Waco.

“It gives them a quicker turnaround if they have to do load and return and pick up more retardant,” Harrison said. “We’re taking no chances in getting those air resources. There are also a lot of ground resources.”

Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose said wind speeds are lower than what they were when the last major fire broke out on Labor Day weekend.

“Today we do have very low relative humidity levels, down around 10 to 15 percent. And that is created very elevated fire weather conditions,” meteorologist Bob Rose told KUT News. 

Update at 4:10 pm: FM 2336 is closed just north of County Road 353 to Coolwater Drive. An assistant to Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald said evacuations are occurring on Heron Trail and Old Cemetery Road. 

"Hopefully they'll get this under control and I know there working out there very hard and hopefully this will be put to bed tonight." Gayle Wilhelm told KUT News. 

KEYE-TV tweeted this picture of the fire from Adolfo Ibarra, who's embedded with the US Forest Service.

Twitter user @tankeroo posted this image of the smoke from his office at the Austin airport. 

Update at 3:31 pm: The Bastrop Sheriff's Department says the fire has grown to 100 acres in size and is still burning out of control. Wind speeds in the area are eight miles an hour. 

Earlier: Fire crews are working on a two acre fire in Bastrop County. The blaze is at the Griffith League Scout Ranch at Oak Hill Cemetery Road, which comes off FM 2336.

People along a portion of Heron Trail are being evacuated as a precaution.

A 34,000 acre area of Bastrop County was burned in a large wildfire last month that destroyed about 1,500 homes.