BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — More than five months after the Hidden Pines fire broke out, burning more than 4,500 acres and destroying 64 homes, a new study recommends changes.
The report states that the initial fire burned for up to an hour before firefighters arrived.
“I am saying to our citizens, if you see a fire on your property you call 911, immediately,” County Judge Paul Pape said.
The study showed that an employee at the Luecke Ranch, where the fire started, radioed in to ranch headquarters. which is in another county. Ranch headquarters called 911, but were connected to a Lee County dispatcher because of their location in Lee County. The report’s authors suspect the involvement of another county also meant less information made it to Bastrop County responders, who were uncertain of the exact location of the fire. KXAN News contacted the office for an attorney for the Luecke property, but did not immediately get a response Monday.
The report also highlights a shortage of local resources leading up to the fire because of other fires at that time.
Our view is that one there weren’t enough resources brought to the fire. [We do not believe there were] enough aircraft [of the appropriate kind or] bulldozers (requested early on),” said Jim Boyle, spokesperson for the Lost Pines Property Owners Fire Protection Task Force.
Boyle believes needed to focus more on the issue. He also wanted the report to acknowledge and address what he sees as an issue in officials recognizing the size of the fire.
Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher says he believes the report shows leaders were asking for assistance. Judge Pape also points out that during the first hours the county requested help, such as a helicopter from STARFlight
“We were ordering outside resources and intrastate mutual aide resources with in five hours,” said Fisher.
The report also addressed preparation, specifically in areas where buildings come close to wooded areas.
After the release of the report Monday, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape asked private property owners to create more space around their homes and businesses to allow firefighters to try to protect their properties, should another fire start. Judge Pape credited wildfire preparation for the success in protecting the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center.
“It needs to be made clear, due to misunderstanding by the public, that all emergency management entities within the county were prepared,” the report’s authors note.
Bastrop County commissioned the case study. Representatives from the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and others contributed or reviewed the report before it was presented to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court.