BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Dozens of firefighters are going head to head with windy conditions as they try to maintain control of the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County.
The Texas A&M Forest Service said the fire area has grown to 812 acres but it’s got it 70% contained.
KXAN spent the day on the ground with some of those firefighters to get a behind-the-scenes look at their strategy.
Lieutenant Michael Scott helps maintain the containment line, a buffer zone between the fire and unburned areas.
“Initially we were asked to take a look at some of the smokes that were coming up off of this line that’s close to the road,” said Scott.
Scott’s home base is the Austin Fire Department, but he’s been working with a state strike team in west Texas. He and his three team members were called to help in Bastrop County on Wednesday.
“The idea is that we will, again, ring the fire; make sure that we have pushed that containment line, generally, we say about 50 to 100 feet in to the fire perimeter,” said Alex Bergenzer, Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson.
He said the idea is for the fire to stay inside the perimeter until it burns itself out.
That means patrolling the perimeter constantly and jumping out to put out hotspots along the line.
“In reality, it would be very, very difficult for the entire fire perimeter, the entire 783 acres, and make sure that every square foot does not have fire in it,” Bergenzer explained.
They’re also looking out for “snags” or “hazard trees” that are dead but still standing and may be harboring flames.
“Some of these trees may be dead, and they’re going to hold fire a lot longer than a live tree would,” Bergenzer said.
He said they will cut the tree down or put the fire out with water or dirt if it hasn’t gotten too deep.
“We also made sure, again, that any bark or anything isn’t hiding any fire behind that. So, that’s why this tree is dug out,” Bergenzer said, pointing to an example.
While crews check for all of this, leaders check on them, making sure they’re staying warm and hydrated.
“The heat lets you know it really fast. The cold, it kind of creeps up on you,” Scott said.
He’s familiar with battling large blazes. In fact, he was part of the team for Bastrop County’s 2011 and 2015 wildfires.
Scott said his 22 years of experience boil down to moments like this, which doesn’t go unnoticed in Bastrop County.
“Hey! Y’all are doing a hell of a job!” a neighbor shouts as he passes by in his truck.
“Thank you, sir, appreciate it,” Scott responded.
“It’s an honor to be here, it’s an honor to be a part of this and support these folks,” he said.
Scott and the Forest Service said they’re pretty confident that they’ve got strong containment lines, and the fire won’t grow. Still, they said crews will be out all night Thursday monitoring those lines.