Firefighting crews are stretched past their limits with wildfires raging throughout Central Texas. With a cold front bringing gusting winds and low relative humidity on Sunday, September 4, the Texas Forest Service logged 63 new fires affecting 32,936 acres. The battle continued on Monday with 22 new fires on 7,544 acres.
Blanco Volunteer Fire Department assisted Sunday afternoon with a 20-acre fire on the south side of Canyon Lake, at Canyon Park. According to Comal County Fire Marshall Wayne Ellington, 30 firefighters spent more than three hours getting the wildfire under control due to the high winds. The park was evacuated while firefighters worked. The fire was reportedly started by a barbecue knocked over by the wind. No property damage or injuries were reported.
The Pedernales Bend fire, at press time, continues to burn four miles southeast of Spicewood on Highway 71. Johnson City and Round Mountain fire departments were called on Monday to battle a new fire between Spicewood and Cypress Mill, on the Travis/Blanco county line, George Barnette reported.
Firefighters reported that the dry cedars were bursting into flames like they were doused in gasoline, Barnette said.
The Pedernales Bend fire was only 40% contained as of Wednesday morning and had burned 6,500 acres. Sixty-seven homes were destroyed, the Texas Forest Service reported, and the fire had jumped the Pedernales River and was actively burning toward the south.
The largest active fire in Texas is still being fought in Bastrop. At press time, the fire had reached 33-089 acres and was 30% contained. The fire started in the Lost Pines area six miles northeast of Bastrop, reported the Texas Forest Service, and moved quickly in the high winds.
“The fire continues to move rapidly south, with some eastward movement,” said the TFS situation report. Nearly 600 homes have reportedly been destroyed and numerous subdivisions have been evacuated. On Tuesday, the western flank of the fire was within two miles of the Bastrop city limits and 300 more people were evacuated.
Elsewhere in the area, the fire in Steiner Ranch was 45% contained on Tuesday morning, according to officials. Firefighters saved 300 structures from the fire that had burned 125 acres. Twenty-four homes were destroyed and 30 damaged. The area will still smolder and smoke for the next three to five days and fire crews will work day and night to put out hot spots and tend to unburned islands in the middle. Over 1,000 people were evacuated. Residents with identification were allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday, but officials warned that evacuations might again be needed if areas flared up.
A 300-acre fire was threatening 150 homes in Leander, another fire in Bastrop County, west of Bastrop, burned 750 acres and destroyed 25 homes, and a fire in the Cedar Creek area on Highway 21 (south of the 750-acre fire) burned 300 acres and destroyed 20 homes.
San Antonio area fire departments responded to a fire at Stone Oak Parkway and Evans Rd. on Monday. The fire was reportedly caused by a San Antonio Water System truck driving through high grass. Nearby apartment complexes were evacuated; residents were allowed back in later that night. 210 acres were consumed before the fire was contained.
Across Texas, nearly 1,600 firefighting personnel are battling fires that have burned 3.5 million acres, the Texas Forest Service reported.
“The last weekend of [August] saw near all-time record high temperatures along with exceptionally dry conditions,” the National Weather Service in New Braunfels stated. “Evaporation rates and water usage remain high due to the heat and very dry conditions. Currently most locations are 10 to 20 inches below average on rainfall for the year to date.”
Governor Rick Perry returned from the campaign trail on Tuesday to survey the fire damage in Bastrop by air and to tour Steiner Ranch and speak with people affected.
Collecting for Burn Buckets
Blanco County residents will be collecting for, and assembling, “burn buckets,” reported George Barnette. The buckets of cleaning supplies specifically for fire damage will be distributed to fire victims in the area. An assembly line will be formed at 9am on Saturday morning at the Johnson City fire station at 300 Live Oak to put together the packages. Donors, shoppers, and assemblers are needed.
Contact Dawn Capra at 512-577-4833 to find out what items are needed before you go out and purchase items.
Tax-deductible cash donations can be made to First United Methodist Church, the First Christian Church in Johnson City, or to your own church with the request they pass the money on.
To help assemble the buckets, show up at the Johnson City fire station on Saturday.