Bastrop fire burns 34,000 acres; two people killed



Posted on September 6, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 6 at 6:41 PM

BASTROP, Texas -- A massive wildfire is still burning, after covering more than 34,000 acres and destroying about 550 homes. None of it has been contained and officials now say two people have lost their lives.

Officials say the two who died were not public safety personnel, and their deaths are under investigation.

Monday, the sky was described as volcanic, but Tuesday it looked more like fog. Ash gave Bastrop County an overcast look, making it difficult to see from the ground. Firefighters in Bastrop battled the blaze Tuesday in a huge cloud of smoke.

Click here to see how fast fire swept through Bastrop State Park.

Firefighters from across the country are doing what they can to save those homes that can still be saved. They spent Tuesday afternoon covering up hot spots and hosing down properties. In some cases, they even removed firewood and other flammables.

In the meantime, more than 5,000 residents have been evacuated. Many are waiting at gas stations and road blocks with their remaining possessions and eye to the horizon.

Jimmy Alley lives in the Pine View neighborhood and says he stayed at his home until officers told him he had to leave. He worried his home could burn and that contents would be lost.

"We chased two truckloads of people out," Alley said. "Me and a neighbor who know everyone who is supposed to be out there."

In Union Chapel, 700 acres have burned and 27 homes were destroyed. That fire is 15 percent contained.

The cause of the massive fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to have started in a subdivision north of town. Officials have yet to say exactly where.

Many power poles and trees have been burned, causing a high risk of them falling over. Officials say the area is still hazardous and residents need to be careful when returning to their homes.

The Bastrop School District and Smithville School District have canceled all Wednesday classes and extracurricular activities.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, clinics will help victims of the fire and offer free legal advice. One clinic will be held at Ascension Catholic Church at 905 Water Street. Two others will be held at Bastrop Middle School.