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Confusion Over Release of 'Final' Bastrop Fire Case Study

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

A recent case study examines the details of last September’s Bastrop wildfire. The fire destroyed 1,600 homes and burned 32,000 acres.

But there seems to be some confusion over whether the report of the fire that’s being released by Bastrop County is the final version.

Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher helped author the case study. Earlier this month, he presented the report to county commissioners. And he plans to release it to the public later this week.

But the Texas Forest Service – another partner in putting the study together – says the version that Fisher has released is not the final version. And, it says, it may not be completely accurate.

"We were in the process of having it vetted and reviewed by subject matter experts. It was not ready for release and we still continue to work on it and refine the information that was in there," TFS spokesperson April Saginor says.

Fisher says he hasn’t heard anything about this review and that, as far as he’s concerned, the case study is ready.

“The authors have no further additions or corrections or anything like that to make," Fisher says. "So I guess if somebody else wanted to rewrite it or expand on it, that’s okay with me. But the work we were assigned to do we’ve completed.”

The report takes a close look at the fire and why some homes were destroyed by the fire while others were spared. The current version of the report pointed to common factors such as dry vegetation near houses and flammable attachments like decks.

Justice Jones is also with the Texas Forest Service. He helped coordinate the post-fire damage assessments. Jones says that the purpose of the study is to understand causes and empower homeowners.

"There may be fires that are so intense that they’re out of our capacity to fight them instantly," Jones says. "But homeowners can begin that fight and join us in that fight by taking advantage of the information that’s out there that’s specifically developed for them to address their risk.”

The Texas Forest Service says it will release what they’re calling a final version of the case study when it feel it’s ready.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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