BASTROP, Texas — The wildfire in Bastrop County, Texas, that started as a prescribed burn is now "under control and largely contained," according to the Bastrop County judge in a statement Friday, Jan. 21.
All evacuated residents in Bastrop County have been allowed to return as of Thursday.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire started at 100 Park Road 1A in Bastrop, just north of SH 71 and south of SH 21.
You can find the latest updates below:
- Update 12 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced the selection of an independent panel to review the circumstances and cause of last week’s escape of a prescribed fire at Bastrop State Park. The panel was ordered through Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) and consists of experts from across the southern United States knowledgeable about prescribed burns on both public and private land. These specialists have expertise in how fire reacts in environments similar to Bastrop State Park. A five-member team of wildland fire experts from the state forestry agencies in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina comprise the review team with specific qualifications and experience spanning that of Incident Commander Type 2, Operations Chief Type 2, Safety Officer Type 1, Firing Boss and Task Force Leader. The team members will come from the Southern United States where they have experience with similar ecosystems, fuel types, fire culture, land use, land ownership, prescribed fire programs and wildland fire response.
“Our role in this review is helping acquire the review team,” said Wes Moorehead, Fire Chief for Texas A&M Forest Service. “Through an interagency ordering system, Texas A&M Forest Service has the ability to bring in resources from states with similar burn programs for such reviews. While our agency is not part of the actual review team, we are glad to help TPWD by facilitating the ordering process.”
- Update 7 p.m. Monday: Texas A&M Forest Service officials confirm the fire is now 100% contained. Officials will continue to monitor over the next four to five days for containment and start working on bulldozer line rehabilitation.
- Update 6 p.m. Sunday: Bastrop County emergency officials said staffing on the fire is planned to remain over at least the next four days. A helicopter flight on Sunday revealed no threats to the containment line, though there is still smoke from the interior of the fire. Fire leadership is hopeful that the forecast rain tomorrow will assist with those interior pockets of heat.
- Update 7:20 p.m. Saturday: Bastrop County emergency officials said the fire is now 95% contained. Officials said the Texas A&M Forest Service used a drone to help guide crews to remaining hot spots along the line. The hot spots were put out, allowing lines to be secured. Crews are set to go to the remaining scene Sunday to ensure the fire stays contained.
- Update 9:10 p.m. Friday: The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management reported late Friday that the fire was 87% contained. The office said crews made "good progress" on securing and patrolling containment lines on Friday and that there was "very low fire behavior throughout the area."
- Update 10:16 a.m. Friday: The Bastrop County judge says the fire is now under control. He said he is asking Texas Parks and Wildlife, the agency that conducted the prescribed burn before it got out of hand, for a full accounting of "what happened, what went wrong, what mistakes were made, what has been learned, and how what has been learned will be used to better protect the lives and property of our residents in the future."
- Update 3:20 p.m. Thursday: The Rolling Pines fire is 70% contained and has impacted 812 acres of land. The increase in acreage is due to more accurate mapping, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. A total of 6.2 miles of containment line have been constructed by crews.
- Update at 9 a.m. Thursday: Officials said that the day shift will continue the mission of securing containment lines, specifically focusing on the southern edge of the fire. Officials said there have been no reports of injuries or damage to residential structures. There are nearly 190 personnel responding, including fire engines, heavy equipment, law enforcement and overhead. Officials advised people to continue to use extreme caution when driving along SH 21 and in impacted neighborhoods.
- Update at 6:30 a.m. Thursday: Officials say that even with the increased wind overnight, the fire remained quiet and fire behavior remained low. Crews patrolled through the night and continued to mop up to improve and secure containment lines.
- Update at 6 p.m. Wednesday: The Rolling Pines Fire is now 58% contained with 738 acres burned. All evacuation orders have been lifted without any damage to residential properties. A spokesperson for the Texas A&M Forest Service praised local residents for what they did to prepare their properties for wildfire risk using "defensible space." These preparations helped save homes that might have been inaccessible to firefighters, the spokesperson said.
- Update at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff continued to respond with agency partners to the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County. TPWD said crews worked throughout the night and day to manage containment without injuries or loss of residential structures at this time. Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management has rescinded its evacuation order for most residents in the affected area.
“We place the utmost importance on the safety of our fellow Texans, and our hearts go out to our neighbors who have been displaced or impacted by this fire,” said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. “At this juncture, we are fully focused on working with state and local partners to provide resources and support to protect those in this area. As pledged, and once this is accomplished, we will initiate a full review of what happened during this prescribed fire, and will share our findings and recommendations when that is complete.”
TPWD is asking residents to continue watching the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page for evacuation updates. Real-time information about the Rolling Pines Fire can be found on the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System website, and TPWD said it will update its webpage with alerts about the park at https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/bastrop. Visitors with existing overnight reservations are allowed to enter the park, but no new day use or overnight reservations will be accepted at this time. Park staff will continue to monitor the status of the fire and will evacuate the park if necessary.
- Update at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday: Residents northwest of Highway 21, including Circle D and KC Estates, can now return. Those in Pine Hill Estates will be allowed to return by 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Highway 21 has reopened to through traffic, but officials are asking drivers to avoid using the highway unless necessary as residents return home. Utilities have been restored.
- Update at 1 p.m. Wednesday: Official says there is no threat of fire getting out of the containment lines, but the fire is still classified as 30% contained. Crews are prepping the south/southwest containment lines for an anticipated wind shift out of the north later in the afternoon. In addition to reinforcing containment lines, crews are working on moving inward, putting out any spot fires and making sure any active fire is away from the containment lines. The fire is not as active as it was Tuesday night, and there are still no reported injuries or residential structure losses.
- Update at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday: KVUE's Bryce Newberry reports that two helicopters, three aircraft dropping retardant and two air supervision planes have been involved in the Rolling Pines Fire battle today.
- Update at 9 a.m. Wednesday: County Judge Paul Pape said "having a controlled burn get out of hand is not acceptable in Bastrop County." Pape said he’s “personally frustrated” and a full investigation will be conducted. “We will get to the bottom of this,” Pape said.
- Update at 8 a.m. Wednesday: The acreage of the fire has been increased to 783 acres and the containment to 30%. Fireline leadership reported good progress made overnight with both the containment line and patrol and mop up operations. High overnight humidity and low winds will allow firefighters to continue those operations. Highway 21 and all areas currently under evacuation remain closed. Electric and fire crews are working to mitigate safety concerns before those evacuations can be lifted. The shelter in Elgin remains open to evacuated residents in need of food and shelter.
- Update at 9:30 p.m.: Pine Hill Drive subdivision, Pine Tree Loop, Lisa, Linda, Porter Road, KC Drive will remain evacuated until at least midday Wednesday. Bluebonnet Coop has turned all of the power off and cannot check for damage until daylight. Heavy smoke has created blackout conditions and fire trucks are patrolling. The smoke has made searching for hidden fires difficult. ESD#2 officials and County OEM officials will decide Wednesday morning when residents can return.
- Update at 8:45 p.m.: Pine Tree Loop is being patrolled with crews looking for spot outs and fire potentially reaching around homes.
- Update at 8:15 p.m.: Residents living on East and West Kelley Road and north to FM 1441 may return to their homes, per BCOEM. Residents are asked to drive carefully and beware of smoke in the area. Entrance to the area will be via FM 1441. Containment lines are still being constructed with patrols ongoing in evacuated areas to detect containment issues with more resources ordered for tonight and tomorrow.
- Update at 7:35 p.m.: The fire is currently being held south and east of Powerline Road. No fire has entered Circle D Estates. Engines and bull dozers are continuing to work on increasing containment. Local officials with the Bastrop Office of Emergency Management are working on decreasing the area under evacuation.
- Update at 7 p.m.: The fire west of Highway 21 is being managed. No homes lost at this time. Fire is still running wild east of Highway 21. The Pine Hill Drive subdivision is the next concern. Multiple apparatus are in place to monitor and prevent home loss.
- Update at 5:29 p.m.: Bluebonnet, Sage, Buckhorn and other associated streets are being evacuated by sheriff’s deputies.
- Update at 5:18 p.m.: Fire has crossed Highway 21 and moving north through the neighborhood. Evacuating homes between Boy Scout Camp and FM 1441 at Highway 21.
- Update 4:15 p.m.: Bastrop County OEM said the fire was burning along Power Plant Road toward Lake Bastrop North Shore, which is north of SH 21.
- Update at 3:20 p.m.: Residents along Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane.
- Update at 2:55 p.m. Tuesday: Residents at Pine Hill Estates including Pine Hill Drive and roads in between.
In an update on Wednesday afternoon, officials said improved weather conditions meant the fire did not see any growth overnight. Firefighters are focusing on the west and south side of the fire due to wind shifts on Wednesday evening that will bring winds from the north.
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said he flew over the fire on Wednesday and believed the fire, while not yet fully contained, was "under control," saying he saw no active flame and saw bulldozers maintaining a containment line.
Officials said Wednesday morning that thick smoke limiting visibility will continue to be a safety factor for drivers. Aircrafts were making water and retardant drops to help slow the spread of the fire and assist in protecting structures in the area.
The Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) said it responded to a request for assistance with the fire. As of 6 p.m. on Wednesday, officials said the fire was 58% contained and they were sticking with 783 acres as the fire perimeter.
TAMFS is responding with fire engines, heavy equipment, aviation and support personnel. TAMFS activated three Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System strike teams, including approximately 75 firefighters.
An Emergency Medical Task Force Wildland Support Package is also responding to provide medical needs. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is responding with personnel support on the scene, and the Texas Military Department deployed a UH60 helicopter with a fire suppression water bucket and has additional aircraft on standby.
The Winchester Fire Department also has three units and six crew members already on scene assisting. The department sent two brush trucks and a tanker/tender. Meanwhile, Lee County has four departments on the scene as well, and the Austin Fire Department also deployed nine members to assist.
The Elgin Recreational Center was used as a shelter for evacuees. The Bastrop Senior Center has been made available for first responders to rest, eat and shower. Additionally, the Bastrop Area Livestock Show Barn and Bastrop Rodeo Arena are open for the evacuation of livestock. Officials ask residents to call Junior Tucker at 512-653-8903 or Hillary Long at 512-657-7056 before hauling their animals.
Pape said that about 250 families were asked to evacuate as a precaution as some homes had power shut off to prevent further fire issues.
Bluebonnet Coop said Tuesday it was "de-energizing power lines for the safety of emergency crews and residents near the fire in Bastrop County, east of Bastrop State Park along Texas Highway 21." The coop said it de-energized lines serving around 348 members in the area.
BCOEM confirmed the wildfire started in relation to a prescribed burn at Bastrop State Park. The burn was set to be conducted Tuesday and possibly the next day as well. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A was closed for the prescribed burn.
Pape told KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman that the prescribed burn broke the lines and ignited new fires as winds picked up.
"The winds were just stronger than anyone anticipated," he told the Statesman.
Rich Gray with the Texas A&M Forest Service said about 200 personnel members were on scene and that more were inbound from around the state Tuesday evening.
Three subdivisions that are made up of about 100 homes were threatened by the fire Tuesday, Gray said, but no homes were damaged. He credited the effort of the firefighters in helping prevent the destruction of homes so far. On Wednesday morning, Bastrop Mayor Connie Schroeder told KVUE that no "occupied structures" were lost overnight.
The forest service said Tuesday presented an increased danger for wildfires due to warm, dry and windy conditions on the forecast. Since Friday, the forest service reports the department, along with local fire departments, have responded to 97 wildfires that burned 7,460 acres of land around the state. Strong north winds and dry vegetation contributed to increased wildfire activity over the weekend, the forest service said.
Bastrop, Fayette and Lee counties do not currently have burn bans in place.
Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said a prescribed fire specialist at the original burn site noticed spotting outside the burn boundaries caused by embers, which is initially thought the be the cause. However, Smith said further investigation into the cause will continue after the flames are put out.
When asked about the Forest Service warning about increased fire chances, Smith said that each prescribed fire is handled under a plan developed for the specific burn and that, at this time, the person or group responsible for the prescribed burn believed it was OK to move forward.
"At this juncture, it is my understanding that we were well within the prescription of the weather parameters that were called for within the plan and so our team felt that it was safe to proceed. And that’s all I know at this juncture," Carter said.
Pape later added that prescribed burns by the TPWD are "very important" to protect the forest in the county along with homes and families in the area, to prevent bigger wildfires like the devastating incident back in 2011.
A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is also in place for the area over the fire. As a reminder, flying recreational drones is not safe for crews working in the area.
Bastrop County has been home to a number of extreme fires over the past decade.
The Bastrop Complex fire of September 2011 at the time was the most destructive wildfire in state history. It burned through around 34,000 acres and destroyed approximately 1,700 homes and businesses. Two people died as a result of the fire.
The Hidden Pines Fire then occurred a few years later in October 2015. About 4,600 acres were burned and 64 structures were destroyed.
Gray added that the ongoing fire is "much more subdued" than the fire of 2011, but that it is still a serious burn.
Gov. Greg Abbott released the following statement Tuesday evening:
“The State of Texas has deployed numerous resources to assist local officials as they combat the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County. Texas A&M Forest Service has deployed three Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System strike teams which include approximately 75 firefighters. Texas A&M Forest Service assets include more than 15 personnel, four dozers, one engine, aircraft including attack aerial supervision aircrafts, and two large air tankers to assist with fire retardant drops. In addition, an Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) Wildland Support Package is responding to assist in meeting any medical needs, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management is responding with personnel support on scene. The Texas Military Department has deployed a UH60 helicopter with a fire suppression water bucket and has additional aircraft on standby. We will continue to monitor the situation in Bastrop County and are ready to deploy additional state resources as needed to contain this wildfire and keep Texans safe."
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: