Exactly 10 years after deadly Bastrop County Complex fire, community reflects on changes

Bastrop County

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — On September 4, 2011, Bastrop government agencies say tree limbs, which were not trimmed properly, snapped and hit power lines. Paired with strong winds, the collision of mother nature and man caused the most destructive wildfire in Texas state history.

The Bastrop County Complex fire burned for 55 days, destroying more than 1,600 homes as it claimed 32,000 acres. Two people lost their lives.

Ten years ago, Christine Files says she was gathering her things, preparing to evacuate her home. She remembers ash falling around her as she left, headed for an evacuation center. Files would help lead the effort to recover after the fire. She is now the Bastrop County emergency management coordinator.

“It was horrific. It literally dropped me mentally and physically to my knees,” Files said. “You were seeing a large swath of our community that was in flames.”

That fire would dramatically reshape how emergency crews and residents respond to natural disasters in the future. That was one of the main focuses of an event being held at the Bastrop County Convention Center Saturday to mark 10 years since that deadly fire started.

“The true impact now has really been that we have built a stronger and resilient community,” Files said. “We know how to help our neighbors, we do help our neighbors.”

The Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team hosted an event Saturday to remember that fire, which was both a reflection and commemoration of the Bastrop County Complex fire and an update from officials on what’s being done differently now. Experts like fire mitigation teams, Smokey Bear and firefighters were there to talk to people about preparedness and avoiding another catastrophe.

Files says people in Bastrop County take fire management at their homes and in their neighborhoods very seriously, from creating a defensible space around homes to having a plan in place.

For new residents of the area, like Mary Robson, who moved to Bastrop County in 2019, Saturday’s event reminds her of the scars her new community has. She says she was there to support who neighbors and friends who lived through that tragic fire.

“We want people to take away a feeling of healing, a feeling that this community really has risen from the ashes,” Files said.

You can find more details about the event, Perseverance in the Pines: 10 years road to recovery here.

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