Breaking
6:30 pm
Sun September 4, 2011

Bastrop Fire Forces Hundreds to Evacuate

12:00 a.m. UPDATE: More from KUT's Matt Largey at Bastrop Middle School:

"The folks sitting here, looking around, they look like they're kind of in shock. Obviously this is a difficult situation for them. They look exactly as you'd expect somebody to look like, who's just had to flee their home because of a wildfire."

Bastrop Middle School is one of several shelters set up for Bastrop County residents who've been forced to evacuate.

Meanwhile, another 400 acre fire was reported near the Hays-Travis County line. The blaze crossed into Hays County shortly after 6:00 p.m. Sunday. All residents in that area being evacuated with the assistance of Hays County Sheriff's deputies. These roads include Stagecoach Ranch Road, Overland Stage road, Deadwood stage Road, Stagecoach Ranch Loop, and Cripple Creek Stage Road.

11:20 p.m. UPDATE: From KUT's Matt Largey at Bastrop Middle School, one of the Red Cross evacaution sites:

"There's probably a hundred people inside. There's several hundred cars in the parking lot. People are sort of gathering here, trying to figure out what comes next. Some people are stopping in to get food and water and then heading on to wherever they're staying for the night. Some people are staying here tonight. They've set up probably, at least 50 cots in the gymnasium tonight."

He describes the scene as very orderly, as people check in with Red Cross volunteers to make sure everyone is out of the evacuated areas.

11:10 p.m. UPDATE:  Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative has been forced to relocate its control center, as a result of the fire in Bastrop County. The Co-op issued this statement on their website Sunday evening.

Wildfires in Bastrop County forced Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative to relocate its control center to its backup location Sunday.  Bluebonnet crews are cutting power to electric lines in advance of the fire so fire crews can work safely.

“The safety of the firefighters and the public are our foremost concern,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s chief executive officer. “We are intentionally cutting power to areas in the path of the fire so emergency crews and residents evacuating won’t have another hazard to deal with.”

Meanwhile, power has been lost to several hundred Bluebonnet customers because of the fire.

11:00 p.m. UPDATE:  The Texas Forest Service is warning residents near the wildfires in Bastrop and Travis Counties to stay alert throughout the night for possible evacuation orders.

"The most important thing is to prepare for evacuations, whether you've received an evacuation order or not. If you're downwind in the smoke, pack a bag," said Lexi Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Texas Forest Service.

10:30 p.m. UPDATE:  Officials with the Texas Forest Service have outlined a new area in Bastrop County being evacuated ahead of the massive wildfire. The fire is burning in and around Tahitian Village, The Colony, Colavista, Pine Forest, Circle D, K-C Estates, La Riata, Pine Valley Estates and Pine Loop. All those areas have been evacuated for several hours  Spokesperson Lexi Maxwell says an new area south of those areas, bordered by Easley Road on the east, Waterson Road on the west and FM 535 to the south, is also now under mandatory evacuation orders.

9:00 p.m. update: The fire in Bastrop County is now estimated to have consumed about 14,000 acres along a path about 16 miles long.

The Austin Fire Department says they have found the 25 firefighters they needed to standby for possible recall, filling the request they put out earlier this evening.

8:30 p.m. update: Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel and firefighters have also been working on today's Central Texas wildfires. This is the latest tonight from Mike Cox:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel and firefighters have been fighting to save the historic Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps structures in Bastrop State Park as a major wildfire continues to burn in Bastrop County. While the situation at the park is unclear at this time, it had earlier been evacuated of all campers and visitors. State Parks Division Director Brent Leisure reports that the regional state parks office about 4 miles from the park on State Highway 71 has been destroyed by fire. Leisure, who works out of the state headquarters in Austin, also has lost his personal residence in Bastrop County.

In Travis County, state game wardens have been assisting in evacuations at the Steiner Ranch fire off Ranch Road 620.

Elsewhere, other state game wardens are involved in helping local authorities in other wildfire situations across Central Texas.

 

State Highway 71 near Spicewood is closed in both directions because of that fire near the Fall Creek Estates subdivision.

8:10 p.m. update: Fire crews have also been working a brush fire near the Fall Creek Estates subdivision off of Highway 71 and Paleface Creek Ranch Road in southwestern Travis County. Click here for YNN's coverage.

Earlier: A quiet Labor Day weekend Sunday has turned into a non-stop workday for Central Texas fire and emergency officials. Wildfires have broken out all around the region. Click here for a listing of active fires in the immediate Austin area. Fires earlier in Cedar Park and Pflugerville are now under control.

Fires are still burning and uncontained in Bastrop County, where multiple evacuations have been ordered, and in the Steiner Ranch/620/Lakeway area of Western Travis County. The Austin-American Statesman is reporting that evacuated Steiner Ranch residents are being directed to Vandegrift High School on McNeil Drive near 2222. Bastrop County fire evacuees have been asked to go to First Baptist Church in Smithville and Bastrop Middle School. Traffic is being re-routed throughout the area, as State Highways 71 and 21 in Bastrop County are closed.

The number of fires burning in an around Travis County today has led the Austin Fire Department to ask for 25 firefighters to call back in for possible activation. They are being asked to call 978-1187 if they are available to come in to work and help out with these fires. AFD will be determining how many firefighters to activate immediately and how many may be activated later.

Central Texas will be under a red flag warning again tomorrow starting at 8:00 a.m. That means dry and windy conditions will once again facilitate the quick spread of any fire that starts up outdoors. LCRA Meteorologist Bob Rose tells KUT News two key ingredients led to the multiple fires today:

The very gusty winds, which at times were gusting up to around 40 miles per hour, and then also the incredibly low relative humidity. So, once a fire got started, it spread very quickly, both because of the wind speed and because of the low humidity, things were burning very, very quickly.