Fire in Bastrop County, Texas burns nine homes

(UPDATE at 9:05 p.m. CT, October 16, 2015)

Bastrop County has updated the number of structures that burned in the Hidden Pines Fire north of Smithville, Texas. They are reporting that 48 homes burned along with 70 outbuildings. In addition, 69 vehicles and 16 RVs burned.


(UPDATED at 1:13 a.m. CT, October 16, 2015)

SEAT drop, Hidden Pines Fire
A Single Engine Air Tanker drops on the Hidden Pines Fire. Undated InciWeb photo.

Recent mapping of the Hidden Pines Fire north of Smithville, Texas shows that it grew about 200 acres over the last 24 hours to 4,582, according to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management. Today they are saying “approximately 40 structures” burned, but did not specify how many of those were residences. On Thursday local fire officials reported that nine homes had burned. The Southern Area Coordination Center’s Morning Report on Friday, October 16 said nine residences have burned.

The Statesman, based in Austin, Texas, reported that a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker will be available for the fire Friday, but it will have to reload with fire retardant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 770 miles away. The DC-10 carries 11,600 gallons of retardant, compared to the single engine air tankers that have been working the fire with less than 1,000 gallons.

Texas politicians complained vigorously in 2011 during another fire siege in Bastrop County when they could not immediately obtain the services of a DC-10 that was on contract to the U.S. Forest Service. The aircraft flew to Texas, but had to sit for two days while the flight crew took mandatory days off and a portable fire retardant plant was assembled. Now four years later the state still does not have retardant facilities at an airport that can reload the huge airplane.

In Texas the local county judges are responsible for suppression of wildland fires. (This reminds of the systems in Colorado and Wyoming where the local county sheriffs have that responsibility, rather than fire personnel.) Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape told reporters that it is possible, but not yet confirmed, that the Hidden Pines Fire started when a rancher was pulling a shredder through grass and an overheated bearing on the device ignited grass clippings.


(Originally published at 11:51 CT, October 15, 2015; updated at 5:47 p.m. CT, October 15, 2015)

After an 11:30 a.m. mapping flight, fire officials report that the Hidden Pines Fire north of Smithville, Texas has burned 4,383 acres. According to the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office approximately 400 homes are affected by the evacuations.

Creations by Cynthia has numerous aerial photos of the fire.


Map Hidden Pines Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite on the Hidden Pines Fire up through 3:08 p.m. October 14, 2015. The red dots represent the most recent heat detections.

A wildfire in Bastrop County, Texas has burned nine homes and about 4,200 acres. The Hidden Valley Fire started on October 13 north of Smithville, and 29 miles southeast of Austin. Several areas are under evacuation orders.

Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Bastrop County and the state has mobilized Blackhawk and Chinook National Guard helicopters. The Southern Area’s Blue incident management team is being mobilized for the fire. Below is a recording sent Thursday morning which informs team members of the assignment.

The Governor requested a fire management assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was approved immediately. The FEMA grant will pay for up to 75 percent of the costs for fighting the fire.

As you can see in the satellite photo above the fire is burning near some letters, “LUECKE”, that can be seen from space. The landowners name was was left after a clear cutting operation which opened the area for grazing. It is common to leave some areas untouched to benefit wildlife after clear cutting, but using surveyors to lay out those places in the form of huge letters is, of course, unusual. Astronauts on the International Space Station use “LUECKE”, which is 2.5 miles long, to evaluate the resolution of their cameras.

The weather forecast for Thursday and Friday calls for temperatures in the low 90s, minimum humidities in the low 20s, and 3 to 8 mph winds.

A RAWS weather station is located 11 miles northeast of the fire.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.