Wildfire causes evacuations in Bastrop County and closure of State Highway 21

The fire burned about 783 acres on Tuesday, and was 30% contained as of Wednesday morning.

By Andy Jechow, Marisa Charpentier; radio story by Jill AmentJanuary 19, 2022 9:29 am, , ,

From KUT:

A wildfire in Bastrop County threatened neighborhoods and burned about 783 acres on Tuesday. It was 30% contained as of Wednesday morning.

Firefighters said they made good progress against the Rolling Pines Fire overnight. High overnight humidity and low winds expected Wednesday will help firefighters, officials said.

About 250 families were asked to evacuate their homes, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said during a Tuesday news conference. All evacuation areas remain in effect as of Wednesday morning and State Highway 21 remains closed north of Bastrop State Park.

“That’s precautionary because we’ve had to turn off the power in those areas so that that wouldn’t create even more issues,” Pape said.

The fire likely started from a prescribed burn at Bastrop State Park on Tuesday morning, according to Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. He said embers from the fire may have sparked fires outside of the boundaries of the prescribed burn. Once the fire is out, he said, the department will begin an official review into the origin of the fire.

“The department is providing all of the resources it can to help with containing this fire,” Smith said. “And we will focus on that until this fire is put out.”

So far, there are no known injuries.

Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said firefighters from all over the state are on the way to help contain the fire. Aircraft have been dropping water to help slow the fire’s spread. Kidd said more aircraft are on the way.

Kidd urged people to avoid the area and evacuate if told to do so.

“Life safety is our number one priority,” he said. “No citizens that we are aware of are hurt or injured at this time. We absolutely want to keep it that way.”

Residents of Pine Hill Estates, including Pine Hill Drive, were told to evacuate their homes at 2:55 p.m. Tuesday. That was followed by evacuations of Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane at 3:20 p.m.

Around 8 p.m., residents living on East and West Kelley Road and north to FM 1441 were told they could return to their homes. Roadblocks were still in place on SH 21.

Officials said evacuated residents could take shelter at the Elgin Recreation Center at 361 State Highway 95. The Bastrop Area Livestock Show barn and rodeo area were opened for evacuated livestock.

Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management has been updating the map below to show the fire’s location and the evacuation area:

A decade ago, Bastrop County was the site of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. In September 2011, fires broke out near Bastrop State Park. Fueled by strong winds and dry air, the fires merged into one and raged for over a month. The Bastrop County Complex Fire consumed 34,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,600 homes. Two people were killed.

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