200 Acre Wildfire Prompts Evacuations in Smithville (Update)
Update: Bastrop County officials say the STAR Flight helicopter is being brought back out to help extinguish some flare ups in the area. Earlier this afternoon, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative said it had restored power to all its customers.
The fire, now 252 acres, is 75 percent contained, according to Bastrop officials.
Update (10:19 a.m): Emergency officials now say the Smithville or "Mount Pleasant" Fire is 55 percent contained. According to a tweet from the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the number of people without power is higher than first estimated:
Smithville Fire: 55% contained, 236 residents without power, Bluebonnet will be replacing poles and wires, ETA for power back on is 3:00pm
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) July 30, 2013
Bluebonnet Electric Coop is the service provider in the area.
Update (July 30, 8:14 a.m.): Bastrop County Emergency Management Officials say fire crews will be on the scene of a Smithville brush fire for at least the next couple of days to make sure it doesn’t flare up again. The 229 acre fire remains about 50 percent contained.
A couple dozen people in the area are without power. Bastrop Emergency crews say they’re investigating that problem and say the outage does seem to be related to the fire.
"It was a relatively large fire in terms of a couple hundred acres and evacuations. But nothing was lost, there were no injuries. It wasn't one of those catastrophic-type fires," Bastrop Emergency Coordinator Mike Fisher said. "It was a pretty significant event that didn't do all that much harm."
Update (July 30, 5:58 a.m.): Fire crews continue to monitor a brush fire that's burned about 230 acres in Smithville – east of Bastrop. The fire started late yesterday afternoon. Thirty to 40 people were evacuated but all have since been allowed to return to their homes.
At last report, the fire is 50 percent contained. The cause is still unknown.Winds are expected to gust as high as 20 miles per hour today. That’s much lower than the 40 mile-per-hour winds fire crews faced during the deadly Bastrop County wildfires in 2011. But the memories of those fires prompted quick reaction from residents.
At the First Baptist Church in downtown Smithville, about 25 residents stood outside waiting for evacuees to arrive. Inside, there was chili and pie on the stove. By the time the sun went down, none of the evacuees showed up. And by 10 p.m., all of the evacuees were allowed to return home.
Daga Gonzalez is with the First Baptist Church. He says even though the fire wasn’t as threatening as the Labor Day fires two years ago, when residents hear the word, ‘wildfire,’ they react quickly.
“It’s just lessons learned from the previous fire and its small town, small community bands together to help each other," Gonzalez said.
The fire was mostly battled by helicopter, which dropped water on the blaze.
Original Story (July 29, 9:13 p.m.): Fire crews will continue working through the night on a wildfire outside Smithville that has prompted the evacuation of 30 to 40 people. The "Mount Pleasant Fire" is 229 acres and is now 50 percent contained, according to the Texas Forest Service.
"Still work to do putting out Hotspots through the night, but Rest Easy, they got your backs," Smithville Mayor Mark Bunte posted on his Facebook page. In an earlier post, he said the fire department had "the head of the fire surrounded."
The fire is in an area southeast of FM 2571 and Copeland Hills Rd. So far no homes have been damaged. None is in imminent danger. No injuries have been reported.
The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management says the Austin-Travis County Helicopter STAR Flight dropped water on the flames. The Texas Department of Public Safety is providing aerial support, too, helping to locate hotspots with a helicopter.
"A lot of people are worried when they hear wildfires, because they think of September 2011," Bastrop County's assistant emergency management coordinator Blake Clampffer told KUT News, referring to the wildfires that destroyed more than 1,600 homes in Bastrop. "This is nothing like that."
"They don't have 40 mile-per-hour winds right now," Clampffer said. "It's not an aggressive fire."
However, Clampffer was not ready to rule out the possibility of further evacuations. "There will be fire crews throughout the night watching this and working on it," Clampffer said.
"All residents north of Dump Ground Road to Upton Road evacuate immediately," the Smithville Fire Department said in a message transmitted through the National Weather Service. "That includes all residents on Copeland Hill Drive."
Here is a map showing the area where evacuations occurred.