A wildfire that started Tuesday in Bastrop County continues to spread, thanks in part to high, shifting winds on Wednesday, officials say.
UPDATED Friday 10:30 a.m. The Texas Forest Service says that a Type 1 incident response team — a team from the U.S. Forest Service, in this case — has been called in to assist crews in managing and battling the Hidden Pines Fire. As of today, the fire is still reported to be 25 percent contained and to have covered 4,383 acres. The U.S. Forest Service team is expected to arrive sometime Friday. Texas officials say the "complexity" of the wildfire in Bastrop led them to decide to call on the help of national forest service crews. Texas also called in a D-10 from the West Coast — a Very Large Air Tanker designed to be able to drop 12,000 gallons of flame retardant at once. The VLAT is reported to be arriving in Bastrop Friday afternoon.
UPDATED Thursday 5:15 p.m. Thirty-four "home structures" — a category that includes homes and structures that look like homes — plus additional sheds and garages have been destroyed by the Hidden Pines Fire so far, officials reported Thursday afternoon at an information session held at the Smithville Rec Center. The fire's burned 4,383 acres so far, and it's now at 25 percent containment.
Some evacuated areas have been cleared for reentry. About 15 people stayed overnight at the Rec center Wednesday night. Buildings on Kellar Road and Powell Road which had previously lost power are expected to have power restored by 8 p.m. today, officials say.
On Friday, a D-10, a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), from the West Coast is set to arrive in Bastrop County, where the Texas A&M Forest Service will use it to combat the Hidden Pines Fire. The VLAT can drop nearly 12,000 gallons of flame retardant at once, covering an area three-quarters of a mile long and 500 feet wide, according to TFS. Officials say that crews plan to use the tanker to “strategically protect structures [and] homes and to stop the forward progression of the wildfire.”
UPDATED Thursday 3 p.m. The Bastrop County Sheriff's Office reported via twitter that as of just before noon Thursday the Hidden Pines Fire had grown slightly to 4,383 acres, still at 15 percent containment. And according to the National Weather Service, dry conditions conducive to the spread of wildfires will last through the weekend.
The Sheriff's Office also reports that an informational meeting for residents will be held this afternoon at 5 at the Smithville Rec Center.
UPDATED Thursday 11 a.m. Gov. Greg Abbott visited Buescher State Park this morning and, after being briefed by fire officials, declared a state of disaster for Bastrop County. The County was also approved for a FEMA grant, which will reimburse 75 percent of the cost of fighting the Hidden Pines fire.
Below: A map indicating the locations of shelters for people, pets and livestock that have been forced to evacuate due to the wildfire.
Original story Thursday 7 a.m. As of Thursday morning, the Texas A&M Forest Service was reporting that the fire had burned through 4,200 acres of land and now poses a threat to 154 homes. That's in addition to the nine homes that were lost Wednesday. Fire is reported to be 15 percent contained.
Bastrop County's Emergency Coordinator Mike Fisher says he expects what's known as the Hidden Pines Fire to continue burning throughout the day Thursday, as conditions are predicted to be favorable to the spread of fire. Fisher says it's possible emergency crews will continue to fight this fire for the next several days.
Just after midnight Thursday morning, the National Weather Service in San Antonio tweeted that the smoke plume from the fire was detectable from more than 22,000 miles away.
On Wednesday early afternoon, the fire was reported to be 50% contained, having covered more than 1,000 acres. But thanks to high, shifting winds, by end of day Wednesday it had covered 3,500 acres and was only 10 percent contained, with 9 homes destroyed and 150 homes threatened.
Listen: What fire officials mean by "contained"
Parts of Smithville have been evacuated; officials were evacuating residents of Harmon Road on a voluntary basis late last night. For updates on evacuations and affected areas, follow the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management's Hidden Pines fire event page on facebook.
Displaced residents in need of a place to stay can go to the Smithville Recreation Center (106 Gazley St., Smithville, Texas, 78957).
The County of Bastrop has declared a state of disaster. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will visit Bastrop on Thursday morning to get a briefing from the county's emergency officials. He's slated to speak to the media about the status of the fire at Buescher State Park at 10:30 a.m.
The National Weather Service says that a very wet winter and spring, followed by a very dry summer, resulted in a larger-than-normal amount of vegetation that had months to dry out, facilitating the spread of wildfire.
Texas Parks and Wildlife released this video showing crews of firefighters and volunteers battling the fire Tuesday night: