Scroll down for live updates on the fire.
BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A controlled burn turned out of control and sparked the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County on Tuesday.
The latest report from fire officials Thursday said crews haven’t allowed the fire to advance much with 70% containment, and the acreage burned total at 812.
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As the fire continues to move, the Texas A&M Forest Service said they scaled back the roughly 200 firefighters from around Texas battling the blaze, sending some local crews back to their home departments.
Crews are battling the blaze with heavy equipment on the ground digging firelines and helicopters dropping water from the air. The fire caused Bluebonnet Electric Co-op to de-energize some power lines in the area of the fire, leading to nearly 350 of their customers without power.
“You’re kind of trying to mentally prepare for the call, like what you need to do, where you need to be,” said Jacki Short, vice president of the Winchester Area Volunteer Fire Department.
Short said her department only has 19 members and five trucks and sent six members with three trucks to help Tuesday.
“The biggest challenge with that fire was just the visual. You couldn’t see very much because of the smoke,” she said.
Winds calmed overnight into Wednesday, but as a strong cold front comes and potentially causes a 40-degree drop in temperatures in less than 24 hours, winds are expected to pick up again.
Short is a realtor, cattle rancher and mom. She said everyone in her department is a volunteer, so they all have other full time jobs but are ready to head back into Bastrop County if they’re needed.
“When I’m paged, and I’m available, then I’m … I’m here to support my community,” she said.
At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said the vegetation near the inside of the fire was still putting off some smoke and embers, but since humidity levels have recovered and the winds have gone down, fire crews have been able to get a better grip on the containment lines.
Fire crews said because conditions leveled out Wednesday, they believe they have a better grip on the fire and will be able to better manage the wind increase and shift Wednesday evening.
KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout asked the Bastrop County judge what went into the final decision to move forward with the prescribed burn and what was different about this particular burn compared to the 18 that have happened since the devastating 2011 fire.
“We don’t issue burn bans on weather conditions alone. There must be certain soil conditions, fuel conditions … We’re a long ways away from issuing a county-wide burn ban,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. “The decision wasn’t done lightly. It wasn’t done without full planning and forethought. Sometimes weather changes in Texas, and it changes quickly.”
On the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, its own guidelines said humidity levels should be around 20-30%, and the wind speeds should be about 10-15 mph in order to set a prescribed burn.
Pape said a full investigation will launch next week, and officials plan to turn over every stone to find out what went wrong.
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KXAN will provide live updates from the fire in this post, but in the meantime, here are links to our previous coverage of the fire.
- Controlled burn likely led to Bastrop County wildfire, officials say; ‘fire behavior has greatly reduced’
- ‘It shouldn’t have happened’: Neighbors want leaders held accountable for Bastrop wildfire
- ‘Not a good situation’: Bastrop Co. fire is déjà vu for some residents
- What were weather conditions when the Bastrop County controlled burn began?
- Neighbors helping people in Bastrop fire’s path evacuate livestock
- As Bastrop County fire evacuees go home, one says she’s done
- Rolling Pines Fire crews battle blaze amid windy conditions
11:30 a.m. – Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape issued a statement to all residents of the county, reassuring them that he’ll work with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to “know every detail” about what started the Rolling Pines Fire.
Pape’s statement Friday said, in part, “I have asked Texas Parks and Wildlife for 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.”
9 p.m. – Some light precipitation fell on the fire Thursday afternoon, according to the Bastrop County OEM. The office said fire behavior remains low across the area. Crews will continue working on the fire for the next few hours. They will also be reducing the number of staff on-site because of decreased intensity of the fire.
5 p.m. – Bastrop County ESD 2 said all local fire units are off the fire ground. Texas Parks and Wildlife as well as the Texas A&M Forest Service will continue to patrol the fire until it is declared safe and out.
3:20 p.m. – The Texas A&M Forest Service said firefighters have continued to improve containment lines Thursday. About 6.2 miles of containment line was constructed and secured, and crews are working to improve another 2.8 miles of containment line, according to the forest service.
The agency said fire behavior is still low. Winds are expected to stay above 10 mph through this evening, according to the forest service, with lower relative humidity overnight. Firefighters are continuing to watch the weather and make decisions based off those observations.
2:40 p.m. – The Texas A&M Forest Service said the fire is now at 812 acres and is 70% contained.
10:30 a.m. – Crews were able to keep the fire relatively in place with containment lines, even with shifting winds as a cold front pushed into the area. Alex Bregenzer with the Texas A&M Forest Service said while total acreage burned and containment percentage remain the same for now, those could change once more people have a look around the fire and see just how well the containment lines did.
“Those containment lines held due to the work that our crews did overnight in the cold,” Bregenzer said. “They continue to patrol they continue to mop up. And the winds actually helped with some of the heavy woody debris that was down there was still on, still smoldering helped to reduce that smoke load that will happen over the next couple of days.”
6:30 a.m. – While emergency crews said they’d have more information later in the day, an update from the Bastrop County OEM said “the fire remained quiet and fire behavior remained low” even with the increased winds as a cold front moved in.
“Crews patrolled through the night and continued to mop up to improve and secure containment lines,” the agency said in a Facebook post.
10 p.m. – The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management said crews will stay on-site through the night patrolling and continuing to improve containment lines. The office said firefighters worked all day to improve containment in anticipation of a strong cold front and wind shift that moved through Wednesday evening.
6:45 p.m. – All evacuation orders have been lifted as of 6:45 p.m., the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management said. Highway 21 was also reopened, and there have been no reported damage to residential structures.
Bastrop County said as residents return home, it asks for them to pay special attention navigating areas in which emergency personnel are operating.
6 p.m. – The Rolling Pines fire remains at 783 acres but is 58% contained, as of Wednesday night. All evacuations for residential areas have been lifted, Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Kari Hines said.
Crews will continue to work throughout the evening, preparing for a forecasted change in the wind. Emergency personnel have been preparing the southern boundary of the fire for wind gusts that may reach 25-30 mph.
Earlier Wednesday, helicopters poured water over hot spots across the fire area.
3:30 p.m. – Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said the fire is “under control at this time,” but isn’t contained.
Pape added that the fire has not spread past the containment line, though some spots are still smoking within its footprint.
Evacuations have been lifted for neighborhoods northwest of Highway 21. Pine Hills Estates residents can go back to their home after 6 p.m. Hwy. 21 is open to thru traffic but should be avoided, if possible.
Pape said there will be a full investigation into the fire. Another update is expected at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
2:50 p.m. – A controlled burn in Bastrop County turned into wildfire Tuesday, burning more than 780 acres as of Wednesday afternoon. Officials say it is 30% contained.
KXAN’s First Warning Weather Team broke down what the weather conditions were like prior to the controlled burn. Read more here.
2:46 p.m. – The Bastrop County ESD 2 said anyone who wants to donate drinking water or sports drinks can drop that off at Station #4, located at 1432 Highway 95 North.
If firefighters are on a call, donations should be left on the front porch.
2:30 p.m. – Valkyrie Ranch in Paige is offering those affected by the fire to evacuate their livestock, horses and exotic animals.
The ranch posted on its Facebook page that it was accepting livestock evacuations at its location on 2030 FM 2104.
The ranch says no one needs to call first.
1 p.m. – Fire officials provided a brief update in Bastrop County Wednesday afternoon. An upcoming briefing to discuss the status of evacuation orders is set for 3:15 p.m.
During the 1 p.m. briefing, Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Alex Bregenzer said the fire was “not as active as last night.” The fire remained at 30% containment and more than 780 acres burned, as of early Wednesday afternoon.
No residential structures have been lost, according to officials. No injuries have been reported.
Bregenzer said the forward movement of the fire has stopped.
10 a.m. – Even with crews making progress containing the fire, there are still evacuation orders and road closures in place. Evacuations orders are still in effect for these areas:
- Power Plant Road
- Pine Tree Loop
- Lisa Lane
- Linda Lane
- Porter Road
- KC Drive
- Hill Crest Drive
- Pinedale Drive
- Pinehollow Drive
- Wildwood Drive
- Boren Lane
- Pinehill Drive
People who live on Kelley Road, both east and west, can return to their homes, as well as people who live North to FM 1441. State Highway 21 is still closed.
9:15 a.m. – Local and state leaders praised firefighters for making “very good progress” and working throughout the night on the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, representatives from several agencies responding to the fire said crews constructed containment lines using bulldozers around almost the entire area of the fire, and they are not projecting any further growth of the fire. However, they said people will still likely see smoke throughout the rest of the day. Crews will also monitor changing weather conditions and winds to pick up again when a cold front arrives later Wednesday.
Because of that cold front, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape told reporters, “We need to get this fire completely controlled today.”
Pape, along with the executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, promised an investigation will happen to determine how a prescribed burn Tuesday at Bastrop State Park got out of control. Pape called it “unacceptable” for that to happen but said “we will get to the bottom of this.”
Carter Smith with TPW explained a certified burn boss made the call based on his expertise and input from “other agencies” to move forward with the prescribed burn.
“I am unequivocally convinced that our burn boss thought it was safe to carry out the fire,” Smith said. “We don’t know what happened. We absolutely believe that embers from the prescribed fire that undoubtedly caused the fire off the park. We’ve tried to acknowledged that. What we don’t know is how that happened, but we’ll get to the bottom of that.”
Smith could not offer a timeline about how long that investigation will last, but he said he would come back to the community to share the findings when they’re available.
The Elgin Recreation Center, located at 361 S.H. 29 in Elgin, will remain open Wednesday to provide food and shelter to fire evacuees. Eleven people stayed overnight at the shelter, while one family who evacuated used a hotel voucher to find a safe space to sleep.
Evacuation orders remain in effect at this time, though local leaders are expected to reassess whether to lift them later Wednesday. They are asking people to still stay away from the area since it remains an active scene.
The Texas A&M Forest Service reported the fire destroyed no primary homes. Firefighters patrolled neighborhoods overnight, according to local leaders, to ensure no active fire spread to those areas.
8:25 a.m. – Fire officials updated the total acreage and containment level of the fire, saying 783 acres and 30% contained. More information will be given at the 9 a.m. update briefing. State Highway 21 through the area remains closed, officials said.
8 a.m. – The Texas A&M Forest Service will give an update at 9 a.m. outside the Bastrop State Park headquarters. We will stream the update in this story.
6 a.m. – The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management issued an update on its Facebook page saying “fireline leadership did not report changes to the acreage or containment during night operations.”
“Crews worked throughout the night continuing to create containment line and patrolling near homes for any threats,” the update said, in part.
The agency also pointed out there’s a temporary flight restriction around the area of the fire and told people not to fly their personal drones in the area.