BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape on Friday ordered a burn ban that will take effect Saturday at 6 a.m. — almost four days after an 812-acre wildfire sparked in the county.
The order prohibits outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of the county. Outdoor burning is described in the document as a person igniting “any combustible or vegetative material outside of an enclosure which serves to contain all flames and/or sparks” or ordering similar burning by others.
Violators could face a fine of up to $500 and a citation, according to the order. Pape also issued an accompanying disaster declaration Friday.
This comes after the Rolling Pines Fire sparked Tuesday in the county. At the latest update, it was 87% contained, according to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management. County leaders confirmed Tuesday the wildfire was likely caused by embers from a scheduled controlled burn at Bastrop State Park that moved outside its boundaries. The fire forced the evacuations of about 250 families, but no structures were damaged, and no one was hurt.
The county and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have been drawing criticism from neighbors in the area, who said a prescribed burn shouldn’t have been done on such a windy day. TPWD stood by its decision earlier this week to carry out the burn, saying its team doesn’t conduct one unless it believes weather conditions are safe to do so, and the original plan met the safety standards for controlled burns.
Judge Pape, in turn, said in a Tuesday night press conference he supported TPWD officials in their decision to continue with the burn, saying the agency has the expertise and skilled personnel to make the right calls.
However, in a statement released Friday, Pape said TPWD didn’t ask for permission to carry out the burn on Tuesday, and the county didn’t give the agency permission to do so. He’s calling for TPWD to provide “a full accounting of what happened, what went wrong, what mistakes were made, what has been learned, and how what has been learned will be used to better protect the lives and property of our residents in the future.”
On Friday afternoon, there was another fire in the county along Highway 71 just east of McCallister, according to the Bastrop County OEM. The suspected cause was a blown trailer tire. The office clocked the fire at about two acres, and it was 100% contained by 7 p.m. Friday.