BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - With the drought lingering on in Central Texas, wildfires are becoming a greater threat. This was extremely evident during the 2011 fire in Bastrop.
"I lost my home. I lost two homes," Janice Butler said.
Butler remembers 2011's Labor Day weekend well. "We were in Waco and our phones started blowing up, basically."
A massive wildfire had broke out in Bastrop County, just a few miles from her property. To make matters worse, her daughter was home.
"We had a friend that was working on our garage, sheet-rocking our garage, and he jumped in our car and packed her up and left," Butler said. "The fire was at our house within 10 minutes."
The fire not only destroyed her home, but changed the landscape.
"We didn't have wind here before," she said, "now we have wind."
Coming back was heart-breaking. Nothing was left.
"You were out here with all this devastation pilfering for anything that you could find that reminded you of yourself and your family and it was hot, and it was windy, and all that was blowing on you was ash."
Through the destruction, Janice said she's a lucky one. With enough insurance and support, they rebuilt, and moved into their new home last October.
"I feel like I really, in that sense, have been blessed and I wanted to reach out and help people who didn't have that support system," she said. "They didn't have insurance, might not have had the family, the friends, just the resources that, we didn't know that we had them, but they were there."
Now her work is helping others through the Bastrop Long Term Recovery Team. The group builds homes for those who can't afford to.
"It's pretty heart-wrenching to think that we live in as prosperous of a country as we do and that we have people who are struggling to survive."
Nearly 50-percent of those who lost their homes had no insurance, or simply not enough. With grants and donations the group has built dozens of new homes.
"It's just so wonderful to see the joy in their faces when they actually have a house," Butler said.
There's still work to do though. One man, who lives near Butler, calls a shipping container home.
So, the plan is to continue the recovery one home, and one life, at a time.
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