95 percent of Bastrop State Park charred by wildfire




Posted on September 13, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 20 at 9:13 AM

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas -- As the sun peaked through the charred and blackened pine trees Tuesday, one could see a blanket of ash around Bastrop State Park.

The wildfire spread fast leaving behind a trail of destruction. It scorched 95 percent of the 6,000-acre park.

“Every day I drive through and it seems like there are more and more trees turning from a little bit of green, a little bit of hope, to complete brown,” said Park Superintendent Todd McClanahan. “It hurts. It absolutely hurts.”

McClanahan lives on site with his family. The fire came dangerously close to his home. Tuesday morning he took KVUE’s Steve Alberts and Doug Naugle on a tour to see the damage in his own backyard.

“It's pretty difficult,” said McClanahan. “We're fortunate that our house survived, but in the long term, I feel like I lost my home.

He won't be the only one to feel such a loss.

“This is a special place for so many Texans and across the nation,” said McClanahan.

With flames shooting 40 to 50 feet above the tree tops, they were still able to save historic building from the 1930s. Thirteen stone and wooden cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal movement to put people back to work during the Depression.

The fire came within just feet of the cabins. All 13 survived, because of quick action by firefighters and park rangers. They cut fire lines around the cabins and hosed them down. The fire did destroy two scenic structures, along with tens of thousands of pine trees which make the area so majestic. 

“Due to the drought there will be a lot of trees that will continue to die due to lack of moisture,” said McClanahan.

That could also mean deadly consequences for the endangered Houston Toad.  

“The difficult thing now around these pools which are breeding sites, they need tree canopy which has been lost,” explained McClanahan. “We just don't know the impact.”

The Houston Toad is only found in small numbers in nine Texas counties. The largest population is located in Bastrop State Park. The toad has already been stressed by the drought.

During the past 10 days, McClanahan has gone through a range of emotions.  

“It's hard,” he said. “We're doing our best to try to bring it back as best we can. There are so many unknowns at this time."

He believes that over time, the park will rebound and bring families back to a scenic and special place. 

The park will remain close through October so officials can assess the damage p