Home Hays County Hidden Pines Fire brings awareness to San Marcos

Hidden Pines Fire brings awareness to San Marcos

Photo by: Ben Kailing | Staff Photographer
Wildfires in Bastrop county have consumed over 4600 acres, destroyed at least 48 structures and remains only 40% contained. What is being the Hidden Pines Fire was one in a series of fires that broke out on Tuesday October 13th. Firefighters were able to suppress the other fires but the Hidden Pines Fire proved too much for them to control. Air support vehicles, including a DC-10 Air Tanker flown in from Tennessee, have joined firefighters in their continued efforts to suppress the damage being caused.

As the second catastrophic fire in recent history burns through parts of Bastrop, cities across Central Texas are taking precautions to prevent a similar situation.

“The topography of San Marcos and our surrounding neighbors would make a grass/brush fire extremely difficult to combat if allowed to grow to the size of the current Bastrop fire,” said Les Stephens, San Marcos Fire Chief.

Stephens said the Bastrop fire does not directly affect San Marcos. However, as state and local resources are sent to assist the emergency in Bastrop, there are less resources immediately available, should something happen in the surrounding area.

The Bastrop fire, called Hidden Pines Fire, is 40 percent contained as of 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, said Steve Pollock from Texas A&M Forest Service, at an Oct. 17 press conference.

Bollock said the fire is contained, but not controlled. He said it could take several days to get it under control.

Robert Tamble, Smithville City Manager, said 244 people, as of Saturday have registered at the evacuation shelter.

Paul Pape, Bastrop County Judge, said 48 structures have been destroyed and 4,600 acres have been burned, as of Saturday.

“It is what it is; we’ve done everything that we could do in the right way,” said Mike Fisher, emergency coordinator for Bastrop County.

Fisher said he does not think the firefighters made any mistakes in attempting to control the fire given the severity of the situation and the dangers of dealing with wildfires.

“Our crystal ball is a little cloudy in terms of telling how soon this fire will be wrapped up,” Pape said.

The Hidden Pines fire was believed to have been caused by a spark from malfunctioning farm equipment, possibly a shredder.

The last major fire in Bastrop was in 2011. There were 34,000 acres burnt in the 2011 fire. Two people1were killed and 691 houses were lost.

It took 24 days to totally contain the 2011 fire.

Stephens said it is possible for San Marcos to see a wildfire similar to the one in Bastrop. Fire conditions in Hays County are currently categorized as elevated.

He said the city is taking precautions to try and prevent similar situations from happening in San Marcos, and has implemented a burn ban.

Kristi Wyatt, communication director for San Marcos, said the city has been circulating wildfire warnings to residents through social media.

Those warnings include not throwing cigarette butts out, and removing brush from around homes.

Bastrop County officials are concerned with additional fires starting. Terry Pickering, Bastrop County sheriff, said Oct. 16 that despite all the warnings, there have been six burn violations in the county.

Governor Greg Abbott declared Bastrop County as being in a state of disaster on Oct. 15, meaning they can now receive federal aid.

“As severe wildfires continue to impact Bastrop County, I strongly urge Texans in that area to take all possible precautions to ensure their safety,” Abbott said. “By declaring a state of disaster in Bastrop County, the state of Texas is activating resources to help affected communities as efficiently and as effectively as possible.”