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Bastrop Wildfire Recovery Update, One Year Later

Updated: Thursday, August 30 2012, 03:09 PM CDT

Building toward recovery: on Wednesday morning, around 20 local, state, and federal officials met under the Bastrop County Convention Center roof to give a progress report on housing, infrastructure, and cleanup nearly a year after the devastating Labor Day Weekend 2011 fires, which destroy nearly 1,700 homes, 38 businesses, and killed two people.

"We're gonna return bigger and better and stronger than we were before," said Mike Fisher, Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator, during a press briefing.

About 30 percent of the homes destroyed in the fire have been rebuilt, though officials say the speed of the future recovery effort depends in large part on how quickly the money comes in.

"We will not be able to get additional grants if we do not get additional funds into this county," said Lisa Smith, Bastrop County Auditor.

The county is looking to the state for help to fund the nearly $5 million they still need locally to get the federal grants. They’ve spent around $6 million so far, which, along with matching federal dollars, has covered about $12 million of the $24 million estimated total cost for recovery efforts.

Prevention is one key component of the rebuild.

"Let's use materials that are resistant to wildfire,” said Fisher. “Let's create a landscape around the home that is more conducive to fire safety."

The county’s debris removal program is helping in that goal. The program has removed or will remove and recycle 81,000 trees that pose a safety risk from right of ways and private property.

"If you took all those trees after they've been cut and you stacked them on the playing surface of a football field, they'd be 450 feet tall,” said Ronnie Moore, Bastrop County Engineer. “And yet we're still less than 10 percent of the dead trees out there."

Along with improving communication through social media and the county website, Fisher says his office monitors the drought conditions on a daily basis, and this week, they’re keeping an eye on Hurricane Isaac for any dangerous conditions, though Fisher thinks the storm is far enough away to not pose a serious threat.

As for the fire risk over Labor Day weekend, he added, “Are we gonna have another 34,000 acre fire? No, not this year."

But he said, the danger for smaller and still damaging fires is a constant concern.

"We always have fuel in Bastrop County that will carry wildfire,” said Fisher.  “Even a moderate or small wildfire could cause regrettable damage.  Essentially what I'm recommending is keep your guard up. Be prepared and be cautious."

Close to 750 of the homes destroyed in the fire were classified as low income and 276 were uninsured. The county says volunteers have played a crucial role in rebuilding and saving money, contributing around 250,000 hours.

By Adam Bennett.Bastrop Wildfire Recovery Update, One Year Later


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Central Texas Wildfires - Bastrop Map
 

Bastrop Anniversary Events

Tue. Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.
A Night of Hope, Hyatt Lost Pines

An evening remembering the last year and looking forward toward a bright future. For tickets and more information contact Jennifer Long, 512-461-9418 or jennifer@stanberry.com. Sponsored by Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team.

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