Mike Fisher: My name is Mike Fisher and I’m the Emergency Management Coordinator for Bastrop County.
KUT News: Do you remember the moment that you first heard about the fire? The first fire that started here on that Sunday?
Fisher: Well, at 2:20 Sunday afternoon, September 4th, I was actually on my way back here to the office from the City of Elvin when that fire was reported. It was – and the reason I was coming back to the office is that I had activated our VOC probably about an hour before that fire was first reported. Given the conditions at the time and the activities around and in our surrounding counties, I knew that if we had any sort of ignition that day, it was going to be a monster.
KUT News: What were the conditions like? If you could describe what the wildfire conditions were like that day and leading into that.
Fisher: Well, we had just finished about a year of what is known as a historic drought of record. The entire year back even into 2010, was just an extreme ordinary drought. The fuels were very very dry and lack of rainfall, of course. Even a lot of dead pine needles because the drought killed trees. On that particular day, very low humidity and extraordinarily high winds were just a terrible combination for a wildfire.
KUT News: And so – so, what did you think when that call came in about that first fire?
Fisher: I knew that we were going to experience a very major wildfire. My first concern was life safety, not only for our responders, but for our citizens. Knowing that the fire was in an area we call as a wild and urban interface where we have a lot of population living in those pine trees that were going to burn severely. My concern was could we get everybody out of harm’s way?
KUT News: And so, when you heard – when the call came in, what was the first thing you did?
Fisher: Well, we established our emergency management plan and activated it here at our emergency management center, where we called in the sheriff and the fire chief and my staff and county judge and our public information officers, those routine things that we do to activate. Establish contact with the foresters out in the field and tried to start supporting them with resources and advice and intel and the things that they might need to get this evacuation done. It was very clear to everybody that there was not enough firefighting forces or equipment to handle the fire. It was burning so rapidly and so quickly that had we had three, four times, even ten times the fire trucks that we had, we would have made no difference to the fire in those first few hours.
KUT News: And why was that? It was just moving so quickly, the conditions were?
Fisher: Again, it was the dryness of the fuel. It was a very low relatively humidity on that day and extremely high winds. We were having gusts above 40 miles an hour.
KUT News: Was there a moment when you – when it – when you realized the situation was worse than you had even initially thought it might get?
Fisher: Probably so. I think the only real big surprise for me was the sheer magnitude, the size, acre after acre and it became hundreds of acres and then thousands of acres. That was a big surprise. In terms of having a disastrous wildfire given all those conditions and given the place where the fire began was not surprising. I feel good that we were prepared mostly through training and equipment and planning, our pre-planning to deal with a wildfire. Given the overall enormity of it though, it stretched everything we had.
KUT News: Especially in those first hours, what were some of the challenges that you guys had?
Fisher: The single biggest challenge was evacuating people and not getting responders hurt or trapped. It actually took me several days just to really realize that we had done such a good job of that. My expectation was, quite frankly, we’d have many many fatalities.
KUT News: And so how did those evacuations – how do you go about doing those evacuations?
Fisher: We principally went door to door, firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical people deployed going street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood with loud speakers, knocking on doors. Neighbors helping neighbors, relatives calling and warning their friends and other relatives and neighbors. From our emergency operation center we used Facebook, we used the NOAH Weather Radio to alert people to do this evacuation and we simply used every tool in our toolbox.
KUT News: And did you find that people were heeding those evacuations?
Fisher: Oh, absolutely. There was no question. We evacuated approximately 5,000 people with very few ground resources to do that. That meant and it proved to me the resilience and the resourcefulness of our citizens here and the way they could respond and take care of themselves. That’s extremely important and, in my mind, it worked almost without flaw. We did have two fatalities and, obviously, we regret that, but in face of so many others at risk, we think that there was a great success there.
KUT News: So, the evacuations – I mean, I imagine that took quite a bit of amount of time. I mean, that was most of the first day or the first afternoon and evening there?
Fisher: Well, it actually went on through the night and even through the next day and the next night. We were – this fire began on Sunday and we were still losing homes on Tuesday. It was until the shift came in on Wednesday morning to report we haven’t lost anymore homes that we knew we were beginning to sort of put this thing in a box. It would take several weeks though to completely extinguish.
KUT News: So, after the evacuations are finished although those are ongoing throughout this, what happens then? How do you attack a fire like this?
Fisher: Well, like I say, the first call was for evacuations and we had to support that with shelters and places where people could go and spend the night and, in fact, the next few days. It was again only until, oh, probably Tuesday night and Wednesday where we actually was doing any firefighting. In the interim, as we called in and got more fire trucks and equipment, we began to do what’s called structure protection and so again the fire was just completely out of control and undefendable, but we did spend considerable amount of time saving the homes that we could. We found – it wound up our final numbers were around 1,700 homes destroyed, but we also had 1,200 plus homes that were not destroyed.
KUT News: So, this was the sort of fire that at least in its initial stages, it’s just almost impossible to fight?
Fisher: That’s correct. It’s just simply not possible. The movement, the temperatures that were being developed, the ember production, the smoke itself made it impossible for the firefighters to do anything at all about the fire. Had we had hundreds, even thousands of firefighters, the fire would have still done exactly what the fire did.
KUT News: And so, what is that – what does that look like out there actually out there where the fire is burning? Can you describe that for me?
Fisher: Well, being a career firefighter, the first thing that occurs is the smoke, difficulty in breathing and then the high temperatures, then embers, if you can think of a rainstorm with burning pine needles and leaves covering your body, covering your trucks, any exposed skin that the firefighters or law enforcement had would be subject to this raining burning embers. It’s completely untenable when temperatures reach a 1,000 or 1,200 degrees where as in this particular fire; we saw evidence of temperatures in excess of 3,000 degrees. A human body just can’t stand up to that.
KUT News: I mean, how does it – how does – what is it about this fire that allowed it to become so extreme? Those conditions to become so extreme?
Fisher: Well, again, just to reiterate, it was following a record drought, extremely dry through the winter into the summer and into the late summer as this occurred. There was absolutely no moisture in any of the fuel, not only the grasses were dead, pine needles, <inaudible 10:57> was completely dry, even the timber, the pine timber, cedar trees, mesquite trees which are all susceptible to fire anyway, but when they’re in a dry condition like that, the amount of heat and energy that’s given off when those guys burn is just exponentially more than if it had some moisture in it. You combine that with very low relative humidity. On that given day, temperatures were in the hundreds, I think this was 96 some straight days with 100 degree plus temperatures and then you mix that wind in with it and that’s where you’ve got your deadly combination.
KUT News: So, for you, when you look back at this – are there moments that stand out for you or are there or does it all sort of run together? Does it all sort of – is it all sort of a blur at this point or do you – or are there specific moments that you recall?
Fisher: Well, there are. The most difficult thing for me is the local incident commander was making decisions that followed our evacuation. While we knew we had firefighters and public works people and law enforcement people, utility people that were in the burning area trying to stop and restore and create some sort of safety, we had to make the decision that we would not allow the public back in those areas and so we had many subdivisions and many neighborhoods where people were not allowed to go back in for as much or as long as two weeks. That was very difficult.
The frustration for those people, my friends and my neighbors, not knowing if their home had burned or it had survived, not knowing what they were going to be doing with their personal lives, realizing that all of their collectibles or clothes, mementos, pictures, if their house was destroyed all of those things would be gone. I was determined that we were not going to experience, because of anything I did, any serious injuries and so those kind of decisions were extremely hard. Day after day of having to tell my friends and neighbors no, it’s not safe to go back in. in the end, I don’t regret it because we did not have any serious injuries other than those two fatalities that occurred early on. I think if we had put the public at risk earlier than what we did, I think that would have not been a good decision. That would have not been a good decision.
KUT News: Were you feeling a lot of pressure to let people back in. I mean, people were very vocal about that.
Fisher: Oh, there’s no question about it. I understood the frustration level was just huge. Again, these are many of my friends and neighbors and co-workers and colleagues, people that I work with everyday that were in that situation. But again, my full attention was to be sure that the public was safe and spared any serious injury. There’s enough risk being taken by the firefighters and law enforcement and the people in there that had to do their job that I felt like adding any risk to the public would just be unacceptable.
KUT News: What’s it like to be that guy who has to make those decisions, I mean, that could possibly, could result – on the one hand, it’s very frustrating for people, but on the other hand, these are life and death decisions. What’s it like to have to make those decisions in a situation like this?
Fisher: Well, again, it was very difficult on me to have to make those decisions, but I don’t think there was ever a point where I questioned that it was not the best decision to make. Was it easy? No, but it was the right thing to do and even to this day, I remain proud that we did take that route simply because we had no more people hurt and that was my overall goal.
KUT News: Talk to me about the Convention Center. You guys would go out and sort of update people a couple of times a day throughout that week. What was – describe the scene for me there?
Fisher: Well, we were fortunate that the Convention Center was offered up for our use because as this thing grew and so many people became involved, we needed to have a large workspace. We had local, state and federal agencies that it was imperative that we communicated and planned together and having the Convention Center to do that was a big part of the successes that we had. What were to go on is that we also where it seemed like we were the center of attention, not only for the media, but again for the public that needed to know and wanted to know.
These people that I mentioned before that were evacuated and because of roadblocks, they’re not allowed to go back in. They deserved to know everything we know. It was somewhat frustrating the first few days because if you can imagine, there were a lot of unanswered questions that we as a command staff had. We early on just simply didn’t have the accurate information that we needed. We knew we were losing hundreds of homes. The count became 1,700 give or take. That was – that took a while just to count them and confirm them and so we were trying not to speculate and we were trying to control rumors and, above all, we tried to take as much time as we could to inform the public accurately at least with what we knew for sure.
KUT News: And so, you would step up to the mic there and what would you see from your vantage point looking out?
Fisher: Well, first of all, I saw a lot of cameras and a lot of microphones, but the main thing I saw was the people that I serve in a mode that they’ve never been in before. We were experiencing something in Bastrop County that the State of Texas has never been through. I realized that my co-workers that we were with the other responding agencies, state and federal; we had no checklist to go by. We had no guideline to go by. But the main thing that I saw was that frustration and that feeling of helplessness with my friends and neighbors, the people I work for here in Bastrop County. Very difficult times for me personally and professionally.
KUT News: Yeah, I mean, to the checklist – there’s no like there is no handbook for this, is there?
Fisher: No, not exactly. We have plans for wildfires, we have plans for disasters and who is assigned to what duties and so forth, but this was the most non-traditional wildfire probably in the history of this nation. To have such a huge area just knocked off the map and so many homes, so many lives destroyed, so much property damage, all within one county and to if you compare that to a hurricane or massive flooding that does horrible destruction to other places in the nation, but this was confined to a relatively concise spot within one single county and it was just a non-traditional way that we had to respond to things. We were prepared, our plan essentially worked. It was just the magnitude of it and we were doing things faster and quicker and for longer durations than we ever expected.
KUT News: To the duration of this situation, I mean, what kind of a toll did that take on you and with everybody else who was fighting this fire?
Fisher: Well, I think everybody that was assigned a duty, whether it was law enforcement or any sort of public safety, whether it was utility workers, command staff, me and my colleagues there, I think everybody had to reach down and muster all the strength that they could come up with, pretty stressful times, pretty long days, pretty short nights. A lot of heroes out there and the main thing that we accomplished, at least in my view, that everybody was dedicated, everybody had an assignment on this job. Job one was to have nobody else hurt. We did that day after day, shift after shift. That was job one when a crew would go and start working or we’d make decisions in the Convention Center; life safety was always our top priority. As long as we focused on that and as long as we forgot about our logos and our egos and everybody had the same mission, we’d be successful. I knew that. So, we just kept planning every minute, every hour and every day around that premise.
KUT News: Talk to me about the two lives that you did lose? How did you find – apparently found out about those at different times, but how was that? I mean, that must have been pretty difficult.
Fisher: It was extremely difficult. The first fatality occurred on the day the fire began. The second fatality occurred the next day. One of the – the first fatality, I don’t have detailed information about could that person have been evacuated, was there a failure there of something we did or didn’t do. I have no evidence of that. Then the second person it has been reported that actually was evacuated on Sunday and decided to return home and went around a barricade on Monday and made a very tragic mistake. I have based kind of my whole episode here as commander as not being preoccupied with failure. We knew early on that those two lives were lost. We regretted that, but we just kept moving forward. Again, the mission was we’re not going to have anybody else die. That part was a success.
KUT News: Now, I can’t remember exactly what day it was, but when did the Union Chapel fire start?
Fisher: It started late the morning on Monday, September 5, around 11:00-11:30.
KUT News: And so, I mean, what was that like when that started? I mean, cause you already had a pretty bad situation on your hands already.
Fisher: Oh, yeah, and we had essentially the same weather conditions on Monday that we had on Sunday and so the Union Chapel fire would grow to be a very significant fire. If taken alone, it would be the third worst wildfire in the history of Bastrop County. So, I heard several people refer to it as the small fire. It certainly was not. Around 900 acres and a couple dozen structures that were lost. What was very difficult at the time is that it did occur in another part of the county and we had firefighters from that district that were responding to the fire in the Pines and, of course, when that fire came on Monday morning, they had to leave the fire line on fire one and go to their fire.
We were already stretched thin with resources and firefighters, so through the day Monday and Monday night, it was pretty stressful for everybody, particularly so for the firefighters. You’ve got to remember all of these folks are volunteers and some of them were actually out saving homes or trying to while their own homes burned. We had firefighters that worked for near 40 hours non-stop. That’s pretty stressful on the human body and the human mind.
KUT News: Were you – once the Union Chapel fire started, were you worried about other fires starting in the county?
Fisher: I don’t really know that we were worried about it. Certainly, we didn’t want that to occur because if it had, that would just – felt like that would be piling on. It turns out and it may not be widely reported, but the Bastrop complex, the 34,000 acres that burned in the Pines was actually a result of three separate fires that actually burned together and, so yeah, we were worried about it, but by that time, we knew that the predictability was pretty precise that if we had another fire, it’s going to be really bad.
KUT News: And so, talk about the process of getting a handle on the fire until it actually was declared dead.
Fisher: Well, the first thing that tactics in wildfires at least in terms of containment is to create whatever conditions are needed to prohibit the spread of the wildfire. In our particular case, since this as the entire burn scar turned out to be 16 miles long and six miles wide, the perimeter of that is roughly 55 miles so that’s a lot of mileage to try to patrol and put in control lines with dozers and hand crews. It just takes a long time to do that and we used aircraft, of course, but most of the work is done on the ground. So that alone was a pretty big task. At the same time, we were doing interior firefighting because for day after day we would have new fires erupt within the burn scar, within the perimeter.
We’re still trying to keep homes from burning at least those that had not in the those first few hours. We were protecting those. We were having stump holes that were burning underneath the ground and roots that were burning underneath the ground and just day after day, night after night and, as you might imagine, that takes instead of hours, it takes weeks to get it completely out. As it turned out, on the 28th day of September, 24 days after the fire began, we declared it out, completely extinguished only to find on October 4, one month after the beginning of the fire that we had a breakout of this very same fire and it burned another 300 acres over the next three days. So, it takes a long time for a big wildfire to be completely extinguished.
KUT News: So, that – what was it, the old potato fire, that was sparked by the initial fire?
Fisher: That’s exactly right. It was – sparks that came probably from a stump hole in the ground and the winds had shifted a little bit, it picked up some embers and flipped it across our fire line into unburned fuel and burned up another 300 acres give or take.
KUT News: And what was it about that fire that allowed it to be brought under control relatively quickly?
Fisher: Well, the weather was a little forgiving during that period of time. The winds instead of being strong, winds from the north were actually milder winds from the southeast. It also burned into an area where the fuel conditions were quite as bad. It actually burned out of the pine forest and into some improved pasture land and at that point it was – the firefighters were able to get it under control. In about the third or fourth day had it completely mopped up and cleaned up. So, by about October 11, I believe it was we declared that episode completely gone and done.
KUT News: I want to go back to the Convention Center for one minute. There were various elected officials that came through there. Who came through and spoke at the Convention Center?
Fisher: Well, I’m not sure I can remember the names of all of them. As I recall, every elected official from state level and our federal representatives, our Senators and U.S. Congressmen, they were all there. Many many state agencies, of course, were there. The Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, they were all there one or more times. Just quite a few.
KUT News: And what were they there to do exactly?
Fisher: Well, obviously, they came in and offered whatever support their agency or whatever they represented, offered us the support from those. That was principally their message. We, for the most part, had them participate in our press conferences. What I was wanting was that again our friends and neighbors and the folks that were victimized here would see that they had support of all levels of government; not just locally, but and I thought that could be somewhat comforting.
KUT News: Did you feel like you were given adequate support from the state and federal governments in a timely manner and I’m not sure how honestly you can answer this, but did you feel like you did?
Fisher: Yeah I can answer that very honestly. I do feel like that we did have full support. In the first few hours and the first day Central Texas was burning up and there was very few firefighting resources that were available because Travis County and all of our surrounding counties were having serious fires. By the next day, we were getting in resources to the request we made to the state from firefighting resources from further away, from Nacogdoches and from Dallas and from West Texas and South Texas. So, those guys were getting in during the day on Monday. We had air support.
In the Convention Center, we set up an area for state government through our district captain, Captain Paul Shilsi was Texas Highway Patrol and, as far as I can remember, we had every state agency that’s represented in Central Texas in the building with us, from Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Alcoholic Beverage to obviously Department of Public Safety, State Health Services, TCEQ and on and on and on, right in the building with us so I mean that made it a lot easier to communicate. At the federal level, we had the Southern Area Type 1 Red Team, the Instant Management Team to come in and help me with the fire. I called upon my regional partners, Instant Management and Emergency Management colleagues of mine to come in and start helping us plan recovery and those short-term needs.
We had the Emergency Veterinary Mobile Unit from Texas A&M here helping us with our large and small animal issues. All of us were working right there in the same building and, of course, FEMA come in and started us in establishing our federal roadmap and that we’re still following today. So, I was really never disappointed in response from either our regional, state or federal partners.
KUT News: As the fire died down or got under control somewhat and you would go out and survey the damage, can you describe that for me? Like driving through a neighborhood that you knew and had been through many times before.
Fisher: Yeah, it was just – my term for it is just awful. The destruction was just really beyond even what I could imagine and I’ve been in a lot of wildfires and I’m a career, been around wildfires, but to see the total amount of destruction to the properties that were burned, the homes and out buildings and barns, whereas there just wasn’t anything left. If it wasn’t metal or brick or concrete, it was gone. There was no really in between. A home was either not destroyed or it was completely destroyed. That indicates such an extremely hot quick moving high temperature fire to make that happen. That was the most impressing thing to me. I’ve been around a lot of house fires in my career and a lot of wildfires, but I’ve never seen those two come together like I saw.
KUT News: And this would just go on and on? I mean, this was entire neighborhoods.
Fisher: Oh, street after street, neighborhood after neighborhood and just over and over and over seeing the same scenes. I remember driving to the State Park and seeing the devastation out there. Just awful. People, I guess, describe it as moonscape, but the vegetation was just completely gone. I walked out into the ash and even the soil, everything, all the organics that were down in the soil six inches deep were burned and gone, just extremely high temperatures.
KUT News: And I mean, how do you react to something like that? I guess, emotionally, how do you react to something like that, especially in something like the State Park?
Fisher: Well, you find the good things. You look for successes. You don’t become preoccupied with failure. You’ve got to play the hand you got dealt. I drove through the State Park, but I saw where the firefighters had saved the historic buildings, the cabins, the reflectory, the swimming pool. I saw a large part of the golf course was undamaged and those are good things. I could drive even through the neighborhoods and I could see homes of my friends that were still standing and so those were the good things.
The main thing I think that I saw that encouraged me personally was the huge outpouring of support, not only from our friends and neighbors and co-workers here locally, but from around the State and around the nation, just overwhelming the amount of good wishes and good thoughts, donations and contributions that the world made to Bastrop County. Very meaningful to me.
KUT News: Talk to me a little bit about that because you’d go to the Convention Center and you’d see just these piles and piles and piles of food and water and everything that I assume was all donated.
Fisher: Yeah, for the most part, all of that stuff was donated and a lot of it just from families and friends around the neighborhood. Corporations such as HEB and Wal-Mart and Home Depot and our local businesses here. All the restaurants were making food, not only at the Convention Center, but at satellite locations out where the firefighters and law enforcement guys would begin their shift. People were taking breakfast to them and Gatorade and water and again, it really and I’m sure my colleagues, the other responders feel the same way, it let us kind of concentrate on just doing our job and it felt really good that people were concerned about our welfare enough to even do things for us.
KUT News: So, in the time – what’s changed here? Other than, I know some people are rebuilding their houses, some people don’t have houses, what’s – what do you think has changed in Bastrop County because of the wildfires?
Fisher: Well, first of all, lives have changed. People are beginning to rebuild, I think at a pretty nice pace here. Some ten months after the fire we’ve got, oh, by my estimation between 500 and 600 homes that have been rebuilt or are in progress of being rebuilt, but they’re being rebuilt with empty rooms. That is to say that in most cases where people lost their home, they lost everything in it. Photographs, mementos, clothes, those kind of things and that’s just got to be painstakingly hard to come back from okay so a new house is not necessarily a new home yet.
I’m seeing schoolchildren and I’m seeing parents and I’m seeing other signs of healing, people supporting one another still, being concerned. Gathering up a lot of financial resources to get homes rebuilt for low to moderate income people and uninsured and under-insured and we’ll make it back. It’ll take time, it won’t be the same, but we’re going to be repaired and we’re going to be replenished. The other thing that I see is our habitat, our ecosystem, the lost pines, a big piece of that has been swept off the map. It too will come back. It’ll take time, it won’t be the same, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Wildfire, under the right conditions, is nature’s lawnmower anyway and nature always has a way of rebuilding. In this particular case, we’re taking some great strides to help nature through our biologists and foresters and arborists and our lost pines recovery team has developed the appropriate grass seed for reseeding. We’re working on projects for erosion control and restoration of the county rights of way so still a lot of work going on and a lot of work yet to do, but we’re going to get finished someday.
KUT News: A lot of people talk about a connection or a feeling they have about the land out here. Do you have – do you feel the same way about the land out here just in terms of feeling a connection to it and has this changed that at all for you?
Fisher: Well, it’s certainly changed for me. There’s changes for everybody that resides and visits Bastrop County. There’s always been some sort of a magnetism, I guess is my term for Bastrop County, for the lost pines or the culture, the Colorado River, the recreational opportunities that we have here. Tourism has always been a favorite industry for our community. It still seems to be doing very well. There’s people coming just to see the fire, but also come to revisit what they enjoyed. In the area that’s burned and the ecosystem out there, it doesn’t look the same. The view is different. But it’s not all bad either. As I drive through areas that I’d become familiar with before, it’s somewhat even disoriented, it doesn’t look the same, but yet you can look through and you can see formations or changes in topography or homes that are over there on that other hillside that you couldn’t see before and see if you look for successes, they’re there. It’s not all just strictly horrible devastation. As we get our community rebuilt, we’ll rebound. We’ll be just fine.
KUT News: Some people have chosen not to come back I take it. Have you heard about some of these folks?
Fisher: Yeah, we hear those things. I personally don’t have evidence that it’s a very very large number. I can understand where people were disappointed in what happened. Maybe they don’t want to live in that environment anymore. I know that people, good of friends of mine, that had lived in the Pine Forest and the Timber area and are rebuilding, but in a different environment, in another subdivision somewhere, but still in the county. I don’t think we have just an enormous number of people that are leaving Bastrop County never to return. In fact, the vast majority of the people I think will, in fact, rebuild; maybe not exactly rebuilding what they had before, but I think they’ll rebuild in their original neighborhoods. I still hear a lot of optimism out there where the forest is destroyed, but hey, my grandkids can sit here on my porch and watch it come back. That kind of optimism is alive and well out there.
KUT News: What are you going to do to mark the one year anniversary?
Fisher: Well, I don’t know that I’m going to do anything except just enjoy – I think there’s going to be some festivities and celebrations and remembrances and I’ll just do what I do every day and that’s just to attend; I’m just another person here in Bastrop County. I didn’t lose my home. At somewhere or another everybody in our county is a victim. We know somebody or are related to somebody that did lose their home. It’s just a time, I suppose in a year to kind of look back and say okay, where are we at? We’re not through. We won’t be through at the year anniversary. It’ll take several more anniversaries to do it, but I guess it’s kind of a milestone, but for me personally I’ll just attend whatever events that may be offered up.
KUT News: Several people have mentioned to me this sort of collective sense of PTSD, like people feel like I guess a trauma. They’ll just think and talk about the wildfires a lot. Do you see that? Have you spoken to people about that? Do you feel that?
Fisher: No, not in any widespread term. I think everybody, at some point, was probably the most stressful situation that you could imagine. I know that the lives were disrupted and many many disappointments and so on and so forth, but I really don’t see our community dwelling so much on the negative as really focusing on the positive now. That’s not to say that there’s not people still hurting, there’s no question. Some lives will never get rebuilt. We know that. As I begin saying early on, we lose 1,700 structures. That’s 1,700 construction projects, each with their own characteristics, their own challenges and some may never get rebuilt, but there’s going to be some successes out there and that’s what I focus on.
KUT News: Is there a – in all of this, is there a story or a moment that really kind of exemplifies the whole experience for you or something that just really sticks out in your mind about all of this?
Fisher: Yeah there is. A little bit emotional, but the story is that in the Convention Center we had a food operation going on there where people were donating food and time and drinks and serving three meals a day to as many as 1,200 people, myself included. I went through the line, I don’t remember what day it was, several days and here’s a lady that’s serving something on my plate that I knew and I knew her house had burned down and I’m saying, you’re serving me food? And she said, sure. That kind of spoke to the resilience that we have in our community here. Somewhat embarrassing for me to have her serve me, but she would have had it no other way. That stuck with me; probably always will.
KUT News: That is pretty intense.
KUT News: I just can’t imagine being in her situation and being able to do that.
Fisher: And that’s not something that just happened that one time. That was repetitive. Those kind of things were done over and over, day after day. People just helping people.
KUT News: Alright. I think that’s all I have unless there’s anything else you want to add about any of this. Something that you think is important that people know that maybe they don’t about all of this?
Fisher: Well, I have advice for any of your listeners that may have an interest from a long time emergency management guy, firefighter guy, a public safety professional – what I’d like for everyone to understand is that there will never ever be enough of first responders and public safety folks to go around in a disaster. In fact, that’s somewhat the defining nature of a disaster. We will be overwhelmed, we will never have enough fire trucks, we will never have enough boats, we will never have enough police cars. Just won’t happen and so our families and our citizens are going to need to be prepared on their own. They need to be resilient, they need to be resourceful, they need to have a plan to take care of themselves in whatever situation may come up. Not trying to overstate it because the public safety responders are going to do everything in our power, they’re going to do everything they can to work with those citizens that pay their way, but there will never be enough and our citizens across Bastrop County, across South Central Texas and across America are going to have to be prepared to take care of themselves.