BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Evacuees from the Rolling Pines wildfire in Bastrop County were allowed to return home Wednesday evening. Before that happened, one resident told KXAN the experience has her convinced it’s time to move.
“I love it there, we’ve been there seven years,” Debbie Messer said. “My neighbors are amazing. It’s beautiful. But this was really hard.”
Messer had to flee the fire Tuesday along with her 5-year-old granddaughter, her adult daughter with autism and 11 dogs, including her own and fosters.
“It was just smoke,” she told KXAN of the drive out of her neighborhood. “Couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. I had to put my shirt over my face… I really thought we were going to lose our house.”
Messer spoke with KXAN outside a hotel in La Grange, a temporary shelter chosen for its proximity to her veterinarian who she said was nice enough to open up late Tuesday night to board seven of her dogs.
A former firefighter, Messer said she understands prescribed burns are “definitely needed” in the area, but this one had her scratching her head.
“It’s not that we don’t trust [forest officials]. They’ve done this a lot,” she said. “But the issue is, they were burning close to residents.”
Messer also expressed frustration with what she felt was a lack of communication from the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management.
“Communication is always a challenge when you’re in disaster response mode,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape when asked about the matter by KXAN during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve tried to hold regular news conferences just as this one. And with social media, we’ve continued to put out information through our office of emergency management website,” he said.
Messer said she hopes her family won’t be around for the next emergency. She’s ready to sell.
“If anybody would like to buy a really nice, forested house with a koi pond and a waterfall … I’ll talk to them,” she said.