Gov. Greg Abbott addresses fires in Bastrop County, declares state of disaster for county

Matthew Adams

Following another set of wildfires in Bastrop County, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a state of disaster for the county Thursday morning.

As of Thursday evening, the fire encompassed 4,383 acres of land and 25 percent of the fire was contained, according to KVUE. When the fire first took off, nine homes were burned and the fires threatened 150 homes. No deaths have been reported so far, and the authorities are currently investigating the cause of the fire.  

At Abbott’s press conference, he thanked officials with state agencies and members of the community working to contain any damage and protect the citizens. In order to handle these fires, Abbott said they are working to get more aircraft resources in the county. 

“Because of the challenges in containing this, shifting winds and weather conditions the way they are, we are adding more resources as we speak,” Abbott said. “The Texas Military Operations are adding two more Black Hawk helicopters as well two Chinooks today to be sure they are able to respond more effectively.”   

Bastrop County judge Paul Pape said they have dealt with fires before, but he appreciates the help the community receives.  

“To have Gov. Abbott here today speaking in such genuine terms is a great comfort to the citizens of Bastrop County,” Pape said. “The state has been very resourceful in providing air support, but the fact is these kinds of fires are won or lost on the ground.”  

While the press conference occurred, Pape said a helicopter with a GPS system tracked the perimeter of the fire but would not know until the afternoon how much acreage had burned. 

Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said the difference between the 2011 fires, which burned many trees around the perimeter of Bastrop, and the current fires is the wind levels. 

“The big difference is the winds right now,” Kidd said. “We had 50 mile an hour winds back then. If we get back to that point today, we’ve got to have the community listening to stay out of the way and we can save lives.” 

Kidd said Bastrop County and the state of Texas should be prepared to control the fires for the next seven to 10 days. Bastrop County will receive aid from firefighters across the state as well as teams from Florida and Georgia, but their arrival time is important, Kidd said.

“This fire has national attention at this point, and you’ll see additional resources come in,” Kidd said. “The timing of when they come in, what they do, where they go is critical not only for their safety but for the containment of the fire.”

11-year-old Raven Pumphrey, a student at Smithville Elementary, said she and her family are now staying at the Smithville Recreation Center in Bastrop County after being evacuated from their home Tuesday night. The home was the only house she has ever lived in, Pumphrey said. 

While Pumphrey said she appreciates a safe escape from the fire, adjusting to the recreation center has been tough. 

“Last night we didn’t get much sleep,” Pumphrey said. “It was one of those nights we were freaking out.” 

While part of her wants to move back, Pumphrey said going back would remind her of items the family could not save. 

“I did not get to grab my Pokémon blanket I have had all my life,” Pumphrey said. “My mom had a piece of cloth her dad gave her with a poem he put on it.”