Texas

wildfires
4:07 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Live Blogging Bastrop News Conference

A news conference is underway updating people on the fire in Bastrop. You can follow the news conference here.

wildfires
3:47 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Watch How Fast Wildfires Can Spread

Want to see how fast fires can spread through the parched wilderness of Central Texas? Check out this dramatic video from Texas Parks and Wildlife, shot yesterday in Bastrop State Park.

All but 100 acres of the 6,000 state park have been burned. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have been trying to save historic structures in the park, but now say two buildings may have been damaged.

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wildfires
3:22 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Leander Fire Now 75 Percent Contained

This video, taken yesterday by this Leander resident, shows the fire breaking out.

Update at 6:24 p.m.

Leander police are now investigating this fire as an arson. They believe teenagers may be responsible for it. From the police press release:

The suspects are all described as Caucasian. One female is described as 15 to 16 years of age wearing a pink shirt and blue jeans. Her hair is described as dark black (possibly dyed). The other female is described as 15 to 16 years of age wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. Her hair is dirty blonde in color.

The males are both described as 15 to 16 years of age. Both males have dark, shaggy hair. Both were observed wearing blue jeans. One was observed with a red shirt, while the other wore a green with black stripe shirt.

Earlier: A fire in Leander that destroyed eleven homes and damaged eight is now 75 percent contained, according to Williamson County officials. The fire broke out around 5 p.m. yesterday and burned 300 acres.

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wildfires
2:17 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Bastrop Residents Grow Anxious Waiting To Return Home

Joey Dzienowski, a lieutenant with the Bastrop Sheriff's office, provides evacuees with information on their homes.
Photo by Mose Buchele, KUT News

As a 30,000 acre wildfire burns out of control in Bastrop County, frustration is mounting among evacuated residents anxious to find out whether their homes have been destroyed. Public safety officials are pleading with people to be patient while passing along whatever information they can.

“We understand their concerns. We understand their frustrations,” Bastrop County sheriff Terry Pickering told KUT’s Mose Buchele. “It’s not something we can just say, ‘Okay let’s go.’ It takes a lot of planning and organizing.”

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wildfires
1:49 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

What Should You Bring If You Must Evacuate?

A helicopter helps the fire fighting effort in Bastrop County today.
Photo by Mose Buchele, KUT News

More than 4,000 homes have been evacuated in Bastrop County as a wildfire assails the area.  With tinderbox conditions raising the specter of more blazes in Central Texas, you might want to consider what you should bring if your neighborhood is evacuated.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has helpfully compiled this list of recommended items.

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wildfires
12:23 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Fire Near Fort Hood Grows To 3,700 Acres

A wildfire burning about 11 miles from the major buildings at Fort Hood grew by 700 acres overnight to span 3,700 acres. No evacuations are underway, and fire crews are battling the blaze from the ground and in the air.

Bulldozers are trying to cut a fire break around the perimeter of what’s being called the Jack Mountain blaze.  It is currently 10 percent contained.

“With calmer winds forecasted today, Fort Hood officials think we should be able to get this fire under control today,” III Corps spokesman Tyler Broadway told KUT news.

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wildfires
11:53 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Hays County Discontinues Citizen Hotline

View Larger Map

Hays County has discontinued its citizen information phone line. The temporary information number was created because of an increase in calls to the county's dispatch line. Now that the evacuation order for areas of the county has been lifted and temporary shelters closed, the number is no longer being used.

"There's no immediate need for a citizen's information line," said Hays County spokeswoman Laureen Chernow. "If the need arises, of course we will reestablish that phone line."

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wildfires
11:44 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Bastrop Fire Grows to 30,000 Acres

An image of the Bastrop wildfire captured on Monday
Photo by Earl Nottingham, Texas Parks and Wildlife

A stubborn wildfire in Bastrop County has grown to almost 30,000 acres, and is zero percent contained. The blaze has already destroyed 476 buildings, despite the bold efforts of firefighters working to contain the inferno.

More than 20 neighborhoods have been evacuated. Fire crews are using these assets to combat the blaze.

People who evacuate their homes are being asked to check in at one of these shelters, even if they don’t intend to stay there, so public safety officials can account for everyone. So far, 2,500 people have registered at these evacuation centers and 400 people are actually staying there, according to Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald.

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wildfires
10:20 am
Tue September 6, 2011

View of Bastrop Fire From Space

Photo by NASA

NASA just released this photograph of the Bastrop County fire. It shows smoke stretching from Central Texas all the way down to the Gulf Coast.  You can see higher resolution images here and here.

wildfires
9:19 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Seeking Wildfire Help, Perry Lambastes Federal Bureaucracy

Gov. Perry spoke during a news conference this morning at Steiner Ranch.
Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Governor Rick Perry may have left the presidential campaign trail to return to Texas yesterday, but in dealing with the wildfires, he couldn’t avoid one of the central themes of his campaign: the heft of the federal bureaucracy. 

“One of the problems that we’ve historically had when we’re making requests for federal assets, and I’m talking about [the Department of Defense] in particular, is there’s just a lot of bureaucracy there,” Perry said in a news conference this morning at Steiner Ranch.

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wildfires
10:09 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Tracking the Central Texas Wildfires

Smoke plumes billow behind an American flag near the fire in Bastrop County.
Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

Update at 7:41 am

You can now find the latest news on the wildfires in this post. 

Update at 10:19 pm

There are currently four major wildfires fires burning in the Austin-area, according to the Texas Forest Service.

  • The Bastrop County fire, which is not contained.
  • The Pedernales One/Spicewood fire, which was about 40 percent contained Monday evening
  • The Steiner Ranch fire, which was about 25 percent contained Monday evening
  • The Leander fire, which is now mostly contained

The University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest employers in the region, will provide paid time off for employees who were forced to evacuate, experienced property damage, or lost their homes.  Employees can apply for disaster leave through their department head, or for financial relief from the Staff Emergency Fund.

Update at 10:01 pm

Two-thirds or more of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park has been burned by wildfire, but Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say they have been able to protect historic structures by digging fire lanes and saturating the ground around them with water.

“As long as personal property and lives are not lost, the land actually benefits from these burns, as bizarre as that seems,” Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Cox told KUT News. “Once it starts raining again, the pine trees will come back and the park probably will be more verdant than ever.”

Meanwhile, the Austin Independent School District says all facilities are expected to open on time Tuesday. Several other Central Texas districts are closing campuses for the fire. That information is here.

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.

Austin Energy says power has now been restored to Steiner Ranch, except for about 236 homes. They are being kept off the grid until repairs can be made. Those homes are on Steiner Ranch Boulevard between John Simpson Trail and Epperson, or in the Medina River Way and McNelly Trail area.

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wildfires
7:02 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Wildfire in Leander Prompts Evacuations

This map shows the location of a wildfire in Leander that started around 5 p.m.

About 250 homes have been evacuated in Leander as yet another wild fire erupts in Central Texas. The fire was called in at around 5 p.m., and evacuations began immediately, Williamson County spokesperson Connie Watson said.

The blaze is currently about 20 acres in size.

Homes were first evacuated on Moon Glow Drive and Honeysuckle Way. Evacuations were then spread to include the Mason Creek and Crystal Falls subdivisions. Those are north of Crystal Falls Parkway and south of Topaz Lane. You can see the affected area in the map above.

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wildfires
6:15 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Gov. Perry Visits Bastrop

Governor Perry took questions from the media during a briefing at the Bastrop Convention Center
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry skipped a high-profile Tea Party forum in South Carolina to fly back to Central Texas as wildfires scorch thousands of acres.

“It was a surreal experience today,” Perry said at a news conference with emergency management officials at the Bastrop Convention Center. “I have seen a number of big fires in my life. This one is as mean looking as I’ve ever seen, partly because it’s so close to the city.”

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wildfires
5:19 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

'Mother Nature Has The Upper Hand' In Wildfire Fight

Originally published on Mon September 5, 2011 2:00 pm

A tinderbox landscape and unusually windy conditions have caused more than 60 wildfires to explode across Central and East Texas — creating a hellish Labor Day for thousands of Texans. Two people have been killed so far.

The worst fire is in Bastrop County, just southeast of Austin, where the blaze has been burning out of control for more than a day.

No one in Bastrop has ever seen anything like it. The tall, pine forests that were a favorite getaway for campers and city commuters have erupted into an inferno.

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wildfires
5:18 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

High Winds Whip Up Texas Wildfires

Longhorn cattle grazed as a wildfire burned in the distance in the Texas town of Graford, northwest of Fort Worth.
Tom Pennington Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 5, 2011 7:03 pm

Dozens of wildfires continued to burn out of control across tinder-dry Texas on Monday as calls went out for off-duty firefighters around the region to report for duty.

The Texas Forest Service reported 56 separate fires on Sunday that had burned some 30,000 acres. Neighborhoods across eastern and central parts of the state were reporting widespread damage.

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