Bastrop County wildfire burns 25 acres, 85 percent contained

Helicopter fighting the Royal Pines Wildfire on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy: Texas A&M Forest Service)
Helicopter fighting the Royal Pines Wildfire on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy: Texas A&M Forest Service)

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — One lane of westbound Highway 71 is open as firefighters get the upper hand on a wildfire intersection of Highway 71 and Pine Hill Loop.

The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management reports several fire departments are battling the approximately 25-acre blaze on the area of Pine Hill Loop and Royal Pines Drive, which started just after 5 p.m. Saturday. As of 10:50 p.m. Saturday, the fire was 65 percent contained and the TFS reports the fire’s forward progress had been stopped as crews continue to work on containment. The fire has been dubbed the Royal Pines Fire.

By 1:30 p.m. Sunday, crews said the fire was 85 percent contained.

TFS says the acreage also had been reduced to 25 acres due to crews surveying the fire with GPS Sunday morning. On Saturday, they had estimated it had burned about 35 acres.

Residents on Royal Pines Drive, Peace Haven and Pine Hill Loop were allowed back into their homes Saturday night after earlier evacuations. Around 30 homes were reported threatened by the fire but authorities say no homes have been damaged at this time.

The Austin Police Department had two helicopters and the Texas Forest Service had one helicopter helping with aerial water drops. Aerial assistance was suspended at dusk.

“The firefighters in this community did an outstanding job of protecting those structures, and of course, no lives or injuries resulted because of this fire,” said a Bastrop County OEM coordinator James Gabriel.

While officials have not determined a cause yet, authorities said it could’ve been caused by a cigarette butt or a chain being dragged since the fire started along the highway.

A shelter was opened for a short time for evacuees at the Smithville Recreation Center but that shelter has since closed.

Jacob Pousson showed up to the shelter just as officials were about to life the evacuation order. He says he saw smoke coming from two different directions from his porch.

“I could see about 20-foot flames coming off the woods a little bit down west of the water tower,” says Pousson. He immediately grabbed what animals he could but had to leave several of them behind. “I was pretty scared. I’ve got pigs, chickens and whatnot. I got two of my dogs and one of my cats, but the rest I had to leave so I was scared for them.”

Pousson is all too familiar with wildfires. His current home was rebuilt after the 2011 wildfire destroyed it.

All Bastrop State Park campgrounds and roads are open as of Sunday morning.

The Royal Pines Fire is in the same area as 2011’s Bastrop Complex Fire, which burned 34,000 acres and destroyed nearly 1,700 homes. Two people died in the fire that started on Sept. 4, 2011.

This is the neighborhood that is currently under a mandatory evacuation in Bastrop County.
This is the neighborhood that was originally under a mandatory evacuation in Bastrop County.

Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to follow all warnings saying, “I urge all residents of Bastrop County to heed the warnings of local officials, pay attention to media reports and evacuate if necessary,” said Governor Abbott. “I have ordered the Texas Department of Emergency Management to make available all necessary resources to assist in battling this blaze. I ask all Texans to keep those in the fire’s path in their thoughts and prayers.”

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