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Bastrop State Park employees reflect on 2011 complex fire nine years later

The fire killed two people and destroyed thousands of homes in Bastrop County.

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — Eight years ago, the state's most destructive fire burned through Bastrop County.

The fire began on Sept. 4, 2011.

Almost all of the Bastrop State Park was burned.

“We closed the park in order to cut the trees back from the roads and the buildings,” said Cullen Sartor, site manager at Bastrop State Park. “So that nobody would get injured.”

Sartor fought the fire and survived.

“We had been in a drought for several years,” said Sartor. “There was a big cold front coming through with high winds and low humidity. So we knew the chance of a fire was possible.”

The fire ravaged over 32,000 acres, destroyed 1,600 homes and killed two people over the span of several days.

“As a child, I remember driving on Highway 71,” said Madalyn Miller, interpreter and volunteer coordinator for Bastrop State Park. “It would just be straight trees like you would be coming from East Texas, just a wall of pine trees, and that was when I was at my happy place.”

Employees like Sartor and Madalyn Miller have been restoring the park.


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As preventative measures, they use what is called defensible space.

“We go in around each building and we clear out any underbrush that we can,” said Sartor. “Raise the canopy on the mature trees, that way if a fire does come through there's less fuel for it to consume.”

If you want to learn how to create defensible space around your home, the Texas A&M Forest Service has some advice here.

Sartor said the park has also designed burn lanes so, if a fire were to break out, it would be more controlled.

Since the monstrous fire, thousands of more people have moved to Bastrop. 

Sartor said folks should have an escape route.

Ninety-five percent of the park was burned. It could be decades before it is all restored.

“We probably won't see the fruits of our labor during our lifetime,” Sartor said.

There is currently a burn ban in Bastrop County. That means there can be no open fire.


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