BASTROP, Texas — Around 250 families were told to evacuate their homes on Tuesday night after a prescribed burn ignited a wildfire that ripped through several hundred acres.
As of Wednesday, some have been able to return to their homes, and others were recently given the green light to head back. There have not been any reports of destroyed homes.
Isaac Bauman is one of the dozens who has safely made it back home. He's only been living in Bastrop County for a year-and-a-half, but he's already had to evacuate twice because of the fires.
"It's not exactly the most fun thing to be told that you have to leave your home and fill your car with what you think is the most important things and just leave the rest to hope it's going to be all right," said Bauman.
He hasn't been able to rest thinking about what could have happened and what could happen.
"I'm probably not going to sleep well again tonight knowing that if the wind picks up again, that's the fire's worst enemy," said Bauman.
Many neighbors gathered at Terry's Corner, a gas station outside the emergency management barricades, to share information. Debbie Messer said she and her husband had to evacuate with their adult daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, their granddaughter and 11 dogs.
They were able to find a place to stay in La Grange for the night, but all afternoon and evening, they worried whether they would have a home to return to.
Messer said their family vet was able to help them late Tuesday night in finding a place to keep their several foster animals.
"We're very fortunate that we have an amazing vet who took several of our foster dogs and personal dogs into their kennel at 10:30 last night, nce we knew we couldn't return home," said Messner. "And then we have a couple of our very elderly dogs, foster and a personal dog, with us in a hotel, so it was very traumatic for them, so we didn't get much sleep."
As far as getting updates from officials, she said it's been frustrating having to depend on social media.
"I had to rely on family to help us get the hotel room," she said. "So I'm just not sure why we're not getting this information. We're just kind of all wondering and, unfortunately, it seems to be the case that they rely on social media. And then of course, they're too busy to get a lot of info, which I understand, but it's hard for all of us. You know, when we're all standing around, like you said, Terry's Corner, clueless of what's going on, you know?"
She added this isn't the first time she's experienced a fire since her family bought their home in 2014. It's actually her fourth.
"Every time, there's just no information," she said. "And I understand that they're busy, but the departments that I've worked with had public information officers assigned to them. And I think that Bastrop County should get a PIO in place for things like this, because that's their specific duty is to continually update the public."
Messer said she didn't really realize she needed to evacuate until she checked Facebook and found a post from the Bastrop County Emergency Services page describing road closures.
"I told my daughter to start harnessing the dogs and I drove out to the highway and what I saw was a retired firefighter who told me we needed to get ready to evacuate, heavy smoke conditions and a deputy at the corner who informed me to start telling neighbors to prepare for evacuation. So, when we lost power at approximately 4 p.m., we left. And, right after that, they issued the evacuation notice and we stayed at Terry's Corner for probably six hours."
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Messer considers herself one of the lucky ones, as her house was also one of those that remained standing after the 2011 wildfires. However, with this event, it was close.
"It was so close. For example, the central fire in 2015 was down the power line easement and a few miles away," said Messer. "Although, we had embers falling and we did have a spot fire on the lot adjacent to us, which my husband and son successfully put out before the fire department got there. This time, I mean, it was coming right for us, and Power Line Road is just one over from us. Had they not contained it there, it would have ran through the Boy Scout camp and all the other heavily wooded areas. And because we had to leave, we weren't there to defend our space if there was a spot fire."
Claire Wunderlin is another Bastrop resident that lived through the 2011 fires. When evacuating her home on Wednesday, that was all she could remember.
"Just knowing what it looked like when we came back here the first time, everything from that house on was burned to the ground," said Wunderlin. "You just picture that in your mind."
When leaving, the hardest part was deciding what she wanted to take and what she could leave.
"I got the things that were critical to my business, the computers and all of that stuff," added Wunderlin. "Packed up my medication. These are the things that you have to think about. You know, and then little things like family photographs and things like that. But other than that, you just have to walk out and leave it all behind, and then you're driving along and thinking about all the things. 'I should have done this. I should have brought that with me.'"
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