Austin

wildfires
2:14 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

Wildfire Situation Improving at Bastrop State Park

The entrance to Bastrop State Park at night
Photo by Alan Fisher, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Firefighters are mopping up the remnants of a blaze that tore through Bastrop State Park this week. All but 100 acres of the park were blackened by wildfire, but crews managed to save many historic Depression-era buildings.

“We lost a couple of scenic overlooks, which we hate, but the base of them is rock,” Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Cox said. “The wooden covers to them can be replaced when funding becomes available.”

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Austin
6:54 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Central Texas Wildfire Updates September 7, 2011

Two Bastrop residents survey a mapping showing the burn zone of the wildfire.
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

Update Thursday, September 8:

You can find the latest fire updates on today's post.

Update at 6:50 p.m.

Here's where we stand this evening:

Public safety officials have released the name of one of the victims of the Bastrop fire. His name was Michael Troy Farr and he was 48 years old. The identity of the second victim has not been released.

Farr was a City of Austin employee. Mayor Lee Leffingwell has issued is condolences.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of a City of Austin employee. Our sympathies go out to the friends and family of Troy Farr," Leffingwell said in a statement. "As a member of the City of Austin family since 2003, Troy will be greatly missed."

Some Bastrop residents learned whether their homes has been destroyed after the county released a partial list of addresses of burned out structures. 

“The list says our house has structural loss so, we don’t know what that means, but at least it’s better than not knowing I guess – hopefully we’ll be able to get up there soon and find out what’s still there," Jenna Munion told KUT News.

Fire officials have not provided any update on the degree to which the Bastrop Complex fire under control since this morning. At that point, they had said it was 30 percent contained.

Evacuated Spicewood residents are back home and evaluating the damage. Between 65 and 75 homes were touched by the flames. Some people lost everything. (Story)

President Obama called Governor Perry to talk about the Texas wildfires today. According to a statement from the White House, Obama extended his condolences and said the federal government was here to help. Governor Perry is scheduled to debate GOP presidential contenders tonight in Simi Valley, California. One of the core themes of Perry's campaign is that the size and scope of federal power needs to be reduced.

NPR's John Burnett reports on how Texas' historic drought and record-breaking wildfires have not affected Perry's skepticism of climate change, potentially an important issue if Perry seeks to win a general election. (Story)

Update at 4:54 p.m.

Texas is requesting a major disaster declaration from the United States government, which would allow access to federal disaster relief funds. (Story)

Do512.com is compiling a list of disaster relief benefits and asking people to submit any events not already on the list.

Update at 4:34 p.m.

Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald said he expects the count of destroyed homes to "double" when people are allowed back into the burn zone.  Bastrop County officials currently count 576 structures destroyed. The Texas Forest Service says the number is closer to 800. 

McDonald said last night was the first night that no additional structures were lost. He says additional resources are helping firefighters get a handle on the blaze.

The superintendent of Bastrop ISD says schools are still tentatively scheduled to open Monday.

The Union Chapel fire, which started in the Cedar Creek area, is now 90 percent contained.

Meanwhile, Bluebonnet Electric has been surveying the damage to electrical lines and will begin restoration work Thursday morning. It aims to post estimated restoration times on its website. This is only for the top part of the disaster area. Bluebonnet crews are not allowed into the burn zone between highways 21 and 71.

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Austin
4:51 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Texas to Request Major Disaster Declaration from Feds

The Bastrop wildfire alone has burned more than 34,000 acres, destroyed almost 800 homes and left two people dead. Texas has applied for a federal disaster declaration.
Photo by Reshma Kirpilani for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst will ask the federal government to declare a major disaster in Texas due to the wildfires burning across the state.

Dewhurst toured some of the damage and met with some evacuees in Bastrop today, where the worst fire is still not fully contained. Afterward, Dewhurst told the press, "I am signing the request for major disaster relief for Texas to be declared a national disaster because of these fires."

More than 34,000 acres have burned and the Texas Forest Service says as many as a thousand homes have been lost in the Bastrop fire alone.

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wildfires
2:56 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Evacuated Spicewood Residents Return Home

Larry Kirkpatrick's mobile home and car were destroyed in the Spicewood fire. Now, with no transportation, he says he must move back into Austin.
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

People forced from their houses by a wildfire in the Hill Country community of Spicewood were allowed to return home this morning. The blaze blackened more than 6,400 acres and is now 90 percent contained.

Between 65 and 75 buildings were at least partially burned in Fall Creek Estates and the Paleface Ranch Road area. Assessments are underway to measure the extent of the damage. Some people lost everything.

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Austin
8:16 am
Wed September 7, 2011

How Central Texans Can Donate

The wildfires in Central Texas, like this one in Bastrop County, have forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Many organizations are accepting monetary and material donations to help the victims.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT/Reporting Texas

Many spared from the worst of the wildfires are left wondering what can be done to help the victims. There are numerous aid organizations, churches, and community centers that are accepting both monetary and material donations. Here are a few places:

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Austin
6:48 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Report: Austin Fire Chief Out of Town When Central Texas Wildfires Started

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

The Austin American-Statesman published a report online last night that Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr stayed in Colorado for a Labor Day weekend golfing trip  when the Central Texas wildfires began Sunday.  The paper reports Chief Kerr stayed in contact with her department by cell phone and email.

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Austin
7:15 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Central Texas Wildfire Updates September 6, 2011

A home destroyed in the Steiner Ranch subdivision. Evacuated residents were allowed to return to those homes this afternoon.
Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Update Wednesday morning

You can find all the latest info on the fires as of Wednesday on this post.

Update at 7:15 p.m.

Here’s where we stand this evening:

The Bastrop Complex wildfire has claimed two lives, according to police. The blaze is now 34,000 acres and has destroyed 550 homes. Fire officials said they are making progress on the wildfire, but couldn’t yet say the level of containment.  (Story)

More than 4,000 Bastrop residents are evacuated, and many are trying their best to learn whether or not their homes have been destroyed. (Story)

The Union Chapel fire, in the Bastrop County community of Cedar Creek, is 20 percent contained. It has scorched 900 acres and destroyed 27 homes. About 200 people are evacuated.

The Leander fire is mostly contained, but police are now looking for four teenagers whom they believe are responsible for it. Eleven homes were destroyed in the 300 acre fire.  (Story)

Some Spicewood residents may be allowed back into their homes tomorrow. First, they have to pick up wrist bands and car signs at Bee Creek United Methodist Church.  The Pedernales Bend fire, the one that forced their evacuation, is now 80 percent contained.

People who live in the Steiner Ranch subdivision were allowed back into their homes at noon. Power has been restored to about 90 percent of residents. But Lake Travis' fire chief says people should expect continued operations in the area for the next three to five days as crews work to snuff out remaining flames and embers.

The Texas Forest Service lost about a third of its regular operating budget last week, almost $35 million over two years. It was part of the state legislature’s sweeping budget cuts that attempted to balance spending without increasing taxes. (Story)

Governor Rick Perry held a news conference at Steiner Ranch this morning, and criticized the federal bureaucracy for being slow to respond to requests for heavy equipment from Fort Hood. (Story)

Fires can spread frighteningly fast in these ultra-dry conditions. Watch this video to see just how fast.

Here’s a list of things you should bring if you have to evacuate. Here are some ways you can help fire victims.

If you haven’t already seen it, check out this image of the Bastrop fire from outer space.

You can find more information on fire activity from this Texas Forest Service map.

Check back tomorrow morning for more updates on the Central Texas wildfires.

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Austin
7:50 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Donation Drop-Off Locations for Fire Victims

Many local non-profits are creating ways for needed goods to reach those evacuated from the recent fires. Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News.

Wondering what you can do to help those affected by the fires in Central Texas? Make a donation of food, clothing or supplies to a nonprofit that will distribute donations to Central Texans affected by the recent fires.

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wildfires
9:48 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Bastrop State Park Burns, Historic Buildings Saved

Cabins like this one are being protected in Bastrop State Park
Photo by scruffdog1231 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scruffdog/

The massive wildfire tearing through Bastrop County has scorched two-thirds or more of the 6,500 acre Bastrop State Park. But Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials say they have made substantial progress in an effort to save historic buildings in the park.

Many of Texas state parks were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era job creation program. As such, the cabins, a refectory, and other structures at Bastrop State Park are considered historic.  Texas Parks and Wildlife has this on-line exhibit with more on the history of the 1930s effort to construct state parks.  

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Austin
8:51 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Bastrop Residents Look for Hope Amid Flames

Austin Pastor Guillermo Alvarez leads a prayer on a sidewalk in Bastrop for family members whose Bastrop County home was in the crosshairs of the onrushing wildfire.
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

A lot of people in Bastrop County were looking for signs of hope Labor Day, in the face of a 25,000 acre wildfire that tore through brush, trees, homes and anything else in its way.

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wildfires
8:39 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

New Mandatory Evacuation Orders In Bastrop County

A view of the Bastrop fire earlier today from Highway 71
Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

The raging 25,000 acre wildfire is prompting new mandatory evacuation orders for these parts east of Bastrop.

  • All residents in the Hobbs Creek Subdivision.
  • All residents near Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park extending all the way to FM Road 2104.  This area includes the residences along Gotier Trace Road, Antioch Road, and Old Potato Road.  
  • All residents in the Tahitian Village subdivision, the Colovista Subdivision, and all of the Colony.
  • All of Circle D County Acres area
  • All of the Lake Bastrop Acres subdivision
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wildfires
7:58 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Wildfires To Close Some Schools Tuesday

A road closure at the intersection of highways 95 and 21 in Bastrop
Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

Several school districts will be closed Tuesday as the result of wildfires that have scorched thousands of acres in Central Texas.

Bastrop ISD is closing all schools as fire crews struggle to contain a 25,000 acre wildfire in that community, currently the largest in Central Texas. Bastrop Middle School is being used as a shelter for evacuees.

Leander ISD has several school closures because of the wildfire in the Steiner Ranch area. Laura Bush, Steiner Ranch, and River Ridge elementary schools, and Canyon Ridge and Four Points middle schools will be closed.

Vandegrift high school will also be closed, because it is being used as a Red Cross shelter.  Rouse High School is also being used as a shelter, but Leander ISD has not said it if will be closed on Tuesday.

Smithville ISD says it will be closed because of fires located in the area.

Lake Travis ISD sent an email to parents Monday night, saying all classes would be held as normal on Tuesday, but also warning them to stay home if necessary.

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wildfires
6:42 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Mandatory Evacuation in Parts of Northern Hays County

Updated at 9:58 pm: Hays County officials say they are ending a mandatory evacuation order for about 210 homes. Light winds, higher humidity and the grueling effort of firefighters has prevented the Pedernales One fire from pushing further into Hays County.

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Austin
6:16 am
Mon September 5, 2011

Central Texas Wildfires Update

Bailey (right) and Brandi Williams evacuated with their family to Bastrop Middle School at midnight. Evacuations are expected to continue Monday as high winds and low humidity reign over region. Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News.

Updated 10:00 a.m.

You can find the most up-to-date information on this post.

Firefighters continue to battle several wildfires in one of the worst wildfire emergencies Central Texas has ever seen. 

Updated 8:39 a.m.

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