The Most Destructive Wildfire in Texas History
The Bastrop County Complex Fire started on September 4th, 2011, killing two people, and resulting in more than $325 million in damages.
It is known as the most destructive wildfire in the history of Texas. It was believed to have been started by high winds downing power lines in the Bastrop State Park, during a long drought period.
There were 3 separate fires started on that day, which merged into one blaze. The fire quickly burned 1,673 homes, and continued to blaze for over a month. It was declared extinguished on October 29th, 2011.
Rich History of Bastrop County
Bastrop County is located a few miles south-east of Austin, Texas, and includes the towns of Bastrop, Smithville, and Elgin. Bastrop County has a rich history dating back before the Civil War.
It was the site of pioneer settlements in the early 1800’s, and many popular movies have been filmed there, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday the 13th (2009).
The fires came within a few miles of the town of Bastrop, and most residents in the outlying areas had to be evacuated. The Lost Pines area was hit hard, and is home to the Loblolly Pine, and the endangered Houston Toad.
There are active tree planting projects in the area, to try to spur new growth in the burn area. The Texas A&M Forest Service have been working on reforesting the area, with more than 8500 seedlings planted last year. The tough part is that only about half of the seedlings survived.
Some continue to farm the land, hoping for some kind of recovery. The BCC Fire left thousands homeless, and many had no fire insurance. Some have rebuilt their homes on the same site, others have moved away completely.
Many animals were left homeless as well, and to this day the Bastrop Animal Shelter is completely full and cannot take in any more animals. They recently posted an ad on Craigslist asking people to adopt so they do not have to be euthanized.
A New Threat
Recent drought conditions are causing the Colorado River to dry up, and this is a concern among some residents. If the drought persists, it could provide the elements needed for another fire going into the spring and summer months.
Researchers at Texas A&M Forest Service are testing new fire retardants to aid damage control in the next big wildfire. One new gel being tested is made primarily from starch and is bio-degradable.
Even after the fire Bastrop County is still a beautiful place, and the Lost Pines ecosystem is slowly recovering. Let’s hope we have a very wet spring this year.