Texas Wildfires

The most devastating wildfire in Texas history took place during Labor Day Weekend in 2011 in the Lost Pines area of East Central Texas. Wind gusts generated by Tropical Storm Lee pushed trees into power lines and sparked a furry of flames amid the drought-ridden brush. The resulting fire moved at a clip exceeding thirty miles per hour in some areas, overtaking ranch homes and subdivisions as it raced south across Bastrop County, 30 miles east of Austin.

More than five thousand people were evacuated and two lost their lives, including one man who had evacuated but perished when he returned to his home in hopes of retrieving belongings. Damaged houses were almost impossible to find, as homes were either untouched or completely destroyed by the fires. Eventually, more than 1,500 homes were gutted and 34,000 acres of land were decimated before the fire was finally contained. Estimates related to the damage and/or destruction of insured property exceed one quarter of a billion dollars.

The official response to the incident was swift and intense. Bastrop County responders were almost immediately supplemented by resources from throughout the State of Texas and across the nation, including BCFS EMD.

A contingent of BCFS EMD Incident Management Team (IMT) personnel were activated to provide Plans Section support to Texas Division of Emergency Management within the State Operations Center in Austin. This initial mission quickly grew into a tasking to provide on-scene incident management and support of the Department of Public Safety’s Disaster District Committee, stationed in the Bastrop Incident Command Post at the Bastrop Convention Center.

Once in the theater of operation, BCFS EMD was also tasked with providing shelter management and shelter logistical support on behalf of the state. BCFS EMD’s IMT, with assistance of personnel from the Texas State Guard, assumed responsibility of all sheltering for fire survivors. The BCFS EMD Mobile Command Post was also activated as a support and communications platform that allowed shelter operations to be managed independently of fire suppression activities taking place in the Convention Center Incident Command Post.

Working in conjunction with federal, state and local government and non-profit agencies, BCFS EMD helped ensure survivors quickly received hotel vouchers that allowed them to move out of temporary shelters into more private and permanent housing while they rebuilt their lives.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon