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Blanco County News
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Firefighters Make Progress on Bastrop Fire
Officials Look to Allow Residents Back Into Communities
Posted September 9, 2011

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, Bastrop ISD Superintendent Steve Murray, Texas Forest Service representative Bob Koenig, and other officials held a press conference to update residents on the Bastrop County fire.

The fire, which began on Sunday, September 4, has burned 34,038 acres and destroyed 1,386 homes. The fire is now over 30% contained and 844 firefighters are working on the wildfire to keep it from advancing. The personnel count does not include the thousands of people who are helping, such as those from the Sheriff's office, Smithville fire department, City of Bastrop, military personnel, and others from around the country.

Officials are posting lists at the convention center of houses that have been destroyed. They will be working with the appraisal district, going door to door, and counting houses.

Judge McDonald stated that he is doing everything he can to keep the death count at two.

"I know people want to get back home," he said, "but protecting life is more important."

The long term plan is to move individuals out of schools, and officials are working with churches to serve as shelters.

Officials have begun phase two, which includes letting individuals back into the community, after areas have been designated as safe.

Areas consumed by fire are called "burnout areas," according to Bluebonnet Electric Co-op representative Mark Rose. "When residents are allowed to see that area, I think everyone will clearly understand why this is taking the time that it is. Utility poles are still burning. Stumps are still burning. Wire is swinging through the air with only half the pole."

"We are doing everything that we can to prepare the area," Rose said, "not to restore the power, but so that you can safely come in and see your residences."

The electric co-op crews will sweep the burn areas for lines, poles, and debris so it's safe for residents to come back in and look. A resident entered yesterday and dragged a power line off his lot, Rose reported.

"Please do not touch any wires," Rose reiterated. "Do not do what we are trying to do."

Bastrop ISD Superintendent Steve Murray reported that schools will reopen on Monday, September 12, and will provide additional counseling for staff and students. 300 students were designated as homeless before the fires; Murray expects the homeless count to triple, quadruple, or more.

The superintendent noted that transportation is one of the key issues and the district will do the best it can to pick up students at alternative sites–shelters, hotels, in the area and beyond. Transportation information, resources for parents and students, and other information is posted on the Bastrop ISD website at www.bisdtx.org.

Murray added that donations have been generous and that campuses will be serving free breakfasts and lunches to all students next week.

A representative from AT&T said that the company was working on reestablishing 100% of the cell sites and will be waiving some residential and business service fees.

Lt. Governor Dewhurst sent a letter to President Obama, asking the federal government to declare texas a major disaster area. He sent a second letter urging the President to make the declaration.

Further information is available on the Bastrop County website at www.co.bastrop.tx.us.

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