Pedernales fire 100 percent contained, residents return home

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by KELI RABON / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on September 7, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 9 at 3:01 PM

TRAVIS COUNTY -- Wednesday afternoon officials released new information about the Pedernales Bend fire. It is now 100 percent contained, according to local fire officials. However, the Texas Forest Service reports the fire still at 80 percent containment.

Local officials say the fire destroyed 67 structures, 34 of which arehomes. Firefighters did manage to save 92 homes from burning.

On Wednesday residents just wanted to return to what is left of their homes and figure out what to do next.

All Spicewood resident David Beilharz wanted to do was go home.

"I saved the house because I was there," Beilharz said. "I didn't follow the order. I took responsibility for myself. I saved as much as I could."

Beilharz and his neighbors spent hours Wednesday morning waiting to be allowed back into their neighborhood along Highway 71 and Paleface Ranch Road.

Despite special wristbands and promises of being allowed inside at 8 a.m., officials needed more time to ensure the fire that burned more than 6,500 acres and 67 structures was out for good.

"We were told we had to register yesterday," resident Larry Day said. "I registered, my wife registered, volunteers, they've already registered. We've got three vehicles and plenty of equipment, and we're ready to work; we just can't work."

Just before noon, residents were allowed in. Renee Gary was hoping for the best, but instead, says she saw the worst.

"It's totally flattened out," Gary said. "There's maybe two feet of ashes. Nothing, nothing is saved."

Gary's home that she shares with her elderly parents was leveled by the fire, reduced to a mangled pile of tin and rubble.

"I've never seen a fire that burned everything -- your refrigerator, your stove, everything just burnt," she said. "So it was some heavy duty heat to do that kind of damage."

Gary says now that she has seen the damage for herself, she is not dwelling on what happened; she's focused on moving forward.

"We're going to do our best to rebuild," she said. "Just going to take a lot of manpower, help from friends and family, but we'll make it. Me and my mom have started over many times. So we'll start over again."

Sixty-seven structures were affected by the fires in Pedernales. The Travis County Sheriff's Department and Texas Forest Service are currently surveying the area to determine how many of those structures were homes.

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