AUSTIN (KXAN) — Victims of the 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire share their stories with Meteorologist Kristen Currie.
Michelle Byrd was a volunteer firefighter with Bastrop Fire Department at the time of the fire. She was also a resident of Bastrop County, and unfortunately, one of the many who lost their homes that day.
She was on shift the day the fire started and describes the morning as “particularly eerie”. Calls had already started to come in as smaller fires ignited around the area. Once the Bastrop fire sparked, Michelle remembers the fire as “running fast”, jumping the four lanes of Highway 21 “in no time”. And despite weeks of training and preparations for an event like this, the rapid spread and intensity taxed resources from the start.
But despite the devastation, Michelle also remembers that day as a day when the community came together. She saw friends and family walking through the doors of the fire station, asking how they could help. “Tons of water, we had tons of water” she said. Crews were tired having worked long shifts, Michelle remembering seeing crews sleeping anywhere they could lay their heads.
Unfortunately, the tragedy struck close to home later that day when Michelle, who lived in Tahitian Village at the time, heard over the radio that another fire crew was in need of assistance… a fire crew, she knew, was in her neighborhood.
In tears, Michelle told drove up to find her home consumed in flames. Flames came from under, above and around the sides of her home despite efforts made by crews.
Catrina was not home when the devastating Bastrop Fire first ignited. While at work, she called her husband who was at the house, frantically packing, after being told to evacuate. She then knew – she had to leave.
The Gernand family drove to a friend’s house to stay, and unfortunately, found out a day later that their home was one of the many that burned in the fire.
“I couldn’t come out and face it”, Gernand said.
Gernand reminisced on valuable items she wasn’t able to save, like her wedding dress she had hoped to pass on to her daughter.
The family ultimately moved into a FEMA trailer while waiting to plan their next steps. The concrete slab of their home had survived the fire… and after some time, they were able to rebuild.
Despite the tremendous loss and devastation, Gernand says ultimately, she is just grateful her husband and child were able to get out.
“Life happens. You go to work. Things happen. And we were safe. That’s really all that matters,” Gernand reflects.