BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) - The Bastrop fire is now 50 percent contained officials said in a news conference Saturday morning.
President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the state of Texas early Saturday, clearing the way for FEMA to help fire victims.
Tensions with residents are high and the frustration could be heard during the press gathering. Officials said their main concern right now is safety.
"Tensions are high, we want to get individuals back home and make sure they are safe," Judge Ronnie McDonald with Bastrop County said.
McDonald said Highway 71 reopened shortly after 9:00a.m. Saturday and Union Chapel residents have begun returning home.
"The areas we feel are safe were letting individuals in," said McDonald.
Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of 911, a tragic day for many Americans, this Sunday residents of Bastrop will be sifting through the rubble of their own life tragedy and a service planned Sunday will reflect on both.
"Bastrop is having its 9/11 service. Set up to honor those who went through 9/11, firemen, police, military, we will still do that – but we're also going to pray for you, who have been evacuated, who are suffering…sometimes you just want to cry, grown men…because this is a difficult time," Pastor Bob Lon of the Bastrop Ministry Alliance said.
That 10:00 a.m. non-denominational service is slated to honor service, remember victims and pray for healing.
Power restoration work is ongoing and currently in the assessment stages to determine what equipment and materials will be needed to make repairs, providing a map of estimated time frames for restoration.
Water service has also been restored to most of the area. Bill Lovett with Austin Water Utilities said the provider as 100 percent capacity at the generation plant and they are 85 percent on distribution. Lovett said there is still a boil water advisory in affect for 70 percent of the area.
"Property lines have to be disinfected in order to lift notices, said Lovett."
Smithville ISD has been a large help to Bastrop Independent School District throughout the ciriss and officials with BISD said they anticipate reopening Monday at 7:00 a.m.. All busses will run, with the exception of McAlister state park.
:Our staff is contacting students, parents, to determine where they are displaced. Or to arrange for them to get our care packages that are prepared," Lovett said.
Counselors and nurses along with extra staff will try to guide parents during the first day back since fires began,
"We encourage parents to call the school at 512-237-2487 in order for us to locate them. If the school has not contacted you please contact us," said Lovett. "We have over 100 students that we can positively identify, nine staff members who have lost their homes."
Those who wish to file a claim with FEMA should visit their website for information or call 1-800-621-FEMA to register.
Officials will continue going into the affected neighborhoods identifying homes within certain zip codes and verifying addresses.
The Bastrop County Sheriffs office released the name of a second victim killed in the massive fires. Officials said Vickie Fay Lee was found at 253 Ponderosa Loop.
FEMA assistance also means there will be financial assistance for those who need it. Representatives with the Small Business Association said home loans of up to $200,000 will be available at an interest rate of 2.5 percent for a 30 year term. SBA officials also said an additional $30,000 will be available to pay for replacing contents in your home.
"We are partners with FEMA, SBA does loans to individuals. During you phone calls you will be asked certain questions whether or not you go to SBA. If you receive an application through the mail, it's important that you return it. If you don't you may be turned away later."
Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher said crews are making progress. "We know where these hot spots area. We are still showing very high heat in a number of places….we can carefully plan reentry in relation to the fire. I've been asked several times about insurance, I know that's an issue…we're arranging to transport insurance adjusters into all of the area where each of them have lines….even if we have to send fire fighters with them... as soon as we can identify adjustors."
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