Firefighters Make Progress Fighting the Bastrop County Complex Fire, Much of Texas Still Burning

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Four dead, 1700 homes burned in over 186 fires across Texas. Low humidity and remote locations leave several large fires burning out of control

Residents of several Bastrop area communities were allowed back to their homes yesterday as firefighters made progress in containing the huge Bastrop county complex fire that has burned over 1,400 homes and 35,000 acres, and killed at least 2 people.  U.S. 71 and St Hwy 21 remain closed between Bastrop and Smithville.

Lighter winds over the last three days allowed firefighters to let residents into certain areas deemed safe from further flare ups.  The fire, however, is listed as only 30% contained, and with humidity below 20%, it remains an extremely dangerous blaze.

The Austin American-Statesman has a great series of resources including a map of re-opened areas, photos of the devestation, and a great list of how and where to help victims of the fire.

The Bastrop Co. fire revealed problems in co-ordination between local and national firefighting assets, as FEMA did not arrive on scene until Wednesday (four days after the fire began), and a huge DC-10 aircraft, designed to fight large wildfires, which arrived from California on Tuesday wasn't ready to begin fighting fires until Friday morning.  As Texas's volunteer firefighters saw budgets slashed by 75% in the last legislative session, these slow responding national units will have to assume a larger role in battling future fires.

Though most of the other fires in central Texas (including the destructive Spicewood and Steiner Ranch fires) are largely contained, large blazes still burn across east Texas.  Over 100 homes have been destroyed in the Riley Road fire north of Houston that is listed as only 50% contained.  Officials in Smith County, in northeast Texas, are searching for a suspected arsonist they believe to be responsible for setting several fires near Tyler.

The huge Bear Creek fire near Longview has burned up to 40,000 acres and is threatening a natural gas facility.  It is 40% contained, but is burning in a remote region dense with dry timber and is proving difficult to contain.  It is clearly visible from space.

For up to the minute updates on all known fires burning across Texas, visit the Texas Forest Service and InciWeb, and please, do what you can to help the victims of the most destructive outbreak of wildfires in Texas history.


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  1. “U.S. 71 and St Hwy 21 remain closed between Bastrop and Smithville”
    Anybody know how I can drive to Austin tomorrow from Houston without going to San Antonio first? 290 is also threatened by wildfires in NW Harris County.

    • I think this will help…
      Take US 290 east to Giddings, then take a right turn onto US 77 south to go to La Grange.  You will run into the Texas 71 bypass on the north side of La Grange where you can return to the familiar route.  This should add only about a half-hour to your drive–I actually think it will be more in the 15 minute range.

      Be careful on US 77 between Giddings and La Grange, I've heard stories that there are a lot of DPS patrols on that highway.  Have a safe trip and fun when you get to Houston.  Here is a map from TxDOT to help:

      P.S.:  You could also continue on US 290 to Brenham and then take Texas 36 south to Sealy, but I wouldn't recommend that route at this time because there is a major construction project at that intersection in Brenham.  Making the way on Texas 36 through Bellville to Sealy can also get a little tricky, the highways aren't as good, and there are a lot of speed traps on that route.  Trust me on this one–my father lives in Brenham and I was there in mid-July.

      • Thanks ID
        A local who responded to me elsewhere reports that 71 opened last night, but TXDOT's online maps indicate that a closed 71 is being routed to 77 north to Giddings and 290. That will be a cluster there in both directions if that's the case.

        No 290 for certain.

        I'm calling TXDOT when they start answering the phone at 8 am.

        Looks like it's going to be IH-10 to Luling and 183 north from there. Extensive construction shunting down to one lane there also. At least a half hour extra.

        • Actually, that was the first route that I thought about when you asked.
          Then I looked at the map and made those other suggestions.  Yes, that route will add about a half-hour since it is like taking the two legs of a triangle instead of the hypotenuse.

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