Bastrop County judge declares state of disaster as Hidden Pines fire spreads

Anthony Green

Brush fires that began Tuesday in Bastrop have spread to an area of 3500 acres and are 10 percent contained, according to reports from the Texas A&M Fire Service. 

Bastrop County declared a state of disaster Wednesday afternoon after estimates of the fire’s size grew from 375 acres to more than 1500 acres. The fire was 50 percent contained Wednesday morning. 

Firefighters from 12–15 agencies across Texas have been called into the Bastrop area to aid in the relief efforts, Mike Fisher, deputy director of the office of emergency management for Bastrop, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. The efforts of firefighters over the past two days led to the rescue of UT MD Anderson Cancer Research Center located in Bastrop County.

Fisher said the fire will likely continue for several more days. 

“I don’t see the end of this anytime soon,” Fisher said. “Our local firefighters have been here for over 24 hours and they’re exhausted.”

Smoke also spread from Bastrop County to Austin Wednesday  morning.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TECQ) air monitoring sites measure the amount of particulate matter found in the atmosphere, including dust, smoke, chemical residue from power plants and more. According to the data from the monitoring sites, levels in the Austin area reached a high of 51.4. The high Tuesday was 17. 

Although the particulate matter levels were elevated in area, the particulate matter decreased by day’s end and air quality was still considered “good,” according to the air quality index using by TCEQ.  The index considers levels 1–50 to be in the “good” range, levels 51–100 to be the in the “moderate” range and levels 101–150 to be in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range. Sensitive groups include people with breathing disabilities, such as asthma.

People with breathing impairments should make decisions about whether to go outside based on the severity of their illness, according to TCEQ media relations manager Andrea Morrow.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association issued a fire weather warning for 22 counties in Central Texas, including Austin. The report states humidity values in the region are expected to decrease further over the course of Thursday, making it easy for fires to start and spread quickly thereafter.

Travis County, along with 143 other Texas counties, has currently placed bans on outdoor burning of any kind due to drought conditions, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. 

The association said it urges people in the specified counties to refrain from starting any fires until the dry weather conditions subside.

As of Wednesday night, nine homes had been lost and 150 were under threat, according to the Texas A&M Fire Service.