Bastrop County Complex fire
The Bastrop County Complex fire was a major wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

 that struck Bastrop County
Bastrop County, Texas
Bastrop County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of 2006, the population was 71,700. Its county seat is Bastrop. Bastrop County is named for Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop , an early Dutch settler who assisted Stephen F...

 in the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 in September 2011. The fire started on September 4, 2011, during Labor Day
Labor Day
Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.-History:...

 weekend, and burned east of the city of Bastrop
Bastrop, Texas
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there are 5340 people in Bastrop, organized into 2034 households and 1336 families. The population density is 734.8 people per square mile . There are 2,239 housing units at an average density of 308.1 per square mile...

. 1,645 homes were destroyed by the fire, making it the most destructive single wildfire in Texas history. After being largely contained in late September, the fire was finally declared extinguished on October 10, having killed two people and inflicted an estimated $250 million of insured property damage.

On September 20, 2011, fire officials reported that the likely cause of the blaze was sparks from electric power lines. 30-mile-per-hour gusts of wind on September 4 apparently toppled trees which tumbled into electrical lines at two locations, creating sparks that fell onto and ignited the dry grass and leaf litter below.


In the months before the Bastrop County Complex fire, Texas was affected by a series of wildfires amid several distinct record-breaking meteorological conditions conducive to combustion. During 2011, Texas endured its most severe single-year drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 since the 1950s, received the lowest single-year rainfall
Climate of Texas
Texas's climate varies widely, from arid in the west to humid in the east. Due to its large size, Texas is home to several different climates. There are several distinct regions within the state which have varying climates: Northern Plains, Trans-Pecos Region, Texas Hill Country, Piney Woods, and...

 since 1895, and experienced the hottest June-August period of any U.S. state at any point in time on record—exceeding that of even the Dust Bowl
Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936...

 of the 1930s.

Circumstances were further exacerbated by Tropical Storm Lee
Tropical Storm Lee (2011)
Tropical Storm Lee was the twelfth named storm and thirteenth system overall of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, developing from a broad tropical disturbance over the Gulf on September 1. It was designated as Tropical Storm Lee the next day...

, which produced strong winds over the Labor Day weekend, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread. Between September 4 and September 6, reports indicated that 63 new fires were started. On September 6, the Texas Forest Service
Texas Forest Service
Texas Forest Service is an agency chartered by the Texas Legislature to manage the interests of Texas' forests. It is a part of the Texas A&M University System...

 released a statement, describing the fire's behavior as "unprecedented" and stating that "no one on the face of this Earth has ever fought fires in these extreme conditions".


On the afternoon of September 4, two fires started near Bastrop State Park
Bastrop State Park
Bastrop State Park is a state park in Bastrop County in central Texas. The park was established in 1938 and consists of stands of Loblolly Pines mixed with Post Oak and junipers.-History:...

 in the communities of Circle D-KC Estates and the Tahitian Village. The fire quickly spread among the towering Loblolly Pine
Loblolly Pine
Pinus taeda is one of several pines native to the Southeastern United States, from central Texas east to Florida, and north to Delaware. It is particularly dominant in the eastern half of North Carolina, where there are huge expanses consisting solely of Loblolly Pine trees...

 trees, engulfing 400 homes. Multiple areas and locales were evacuated, including the Bastrop Animal Shelter
Animal shelter
An animal shelter is a facility that houses homeless, lost, or abandoned animals; primarily a large variety of dogs and cats.Parrots, for example, are the third most common pet owned by people...

, Bastrop State Park (more than half of which was burned), and other communities near the fire. Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc. is a non-profit rural electric utility cooperative headquartered in Bastrop, Texas, with suboffices in Giddings, Brenham, Lockhart, and Manor....

 relocated its operations to a backup location and cut power in the area to protect firefighters. Bulldozer
A bulldozer is a crawler equipped with a substantial metal plate used to push large quantities of soil, sand, rubble, etc., during construction work and typically equipped at the rear with a claw-like device to loosen densely-compacted materials.Bulldozers can be found on a wide range of sites,...

s and pumper
Fire apparatus
A fire apparatus, fire engine, fire truck, or fire appliance is a vehicle designed to assist in fighting fires by transporting firefighters to the scene and providing them with access to the fire, along with water or other equipment...

s were deployed to help combat the fire, according to Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald. By early September 6, reports indicated that two lives had been lost, and that the number of destroyed homes had increased to at least 600. Although the winds had calmed, the fire had no containment. Urban Search and Rescue Texas Task Force 1
Urban Search and Rescue Texas Task Force 1
Texas Task Force 1, abbreviated TX-TF1, is a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force based in Texas and is sponsored by the state. It consists of a Type I and a Type III Urban Search and Rescue Team as well as a Water Rescue Task Force. Organized in 1997, it is made up of responders from over 60...

 was deployed to the area. By the morning of September 7, the Texas Forest Service reported that 785 homes had been destroyed, with the fire only 30 percent contained.
The fire jumped the Colorado River
Colorado River (Texas)
The Colorado River is a river that runs through the U.S. state of Texas; it should not be confused with the much longer Colorado River which flows from Colorado into the Gulf of California....

 on at least two separate occasions.

On the morning of September 8, the number of homes destroyed reached 1,386. Texan officials also reported that they lacked the tanks and pipes necessary to load Tanker 910
Tanker 910
Tanker 910 is the call-sign of a wide-body jet air tanker currently in fire service. The aircraft, operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, is a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft used for fighting wildfires, typically in rural areas...

, a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. The DC-10 has range for medium- to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a...

 airtanker, with fire retardant
Fire retardant
A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels; examples of these include fire-fighting foams and...

, as well as a qualified aerial firefighting
Aerial firefighting
Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft and other aerial resources to combat wildfires. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing...

 pilot to operate it. Air quality in neighboring Austin
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

 reportedly reached 14-year lows. In the evening of September 8, officials announced that they expected Tanker 910 to be in action by the morning of Friday September 9. However, Tanker 910 ultimately did not receive authorisation to combat the Bastrop fire, instead being used to fight a separate wildfire outside Houston
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...


By Sunday, September 11, the fire had reportedly been 50% contained, and some evacuated residents were permitted to return home as firefighting efforts continued. By this point, more than 1,500 homes had been destroyed by the fire. On September 16, the fire was reported to be 80% contained, and more evacuated residents began returning to the affected area. On September 17, light rain began to fall in the fire zone, and the fire was reportedly 85% contained, although Bastrop County emergency management coordinator Mike Fisher warned that complete containment would take a further 7 days. On September 27, the fire was reported to be 98% contained, with no fire burning outside of the main containment lines.

By September 30, cleanup operations had begun, although the fire was not formally declared to be contained until October 10. The cost of the removal of fire debris was estimated at $25 million, of which FEMA was expected to contribute $19 million.

Impact and effects

The fire caused two confirmed deaths in the Bastrop area, and destroyed over 1,600 homes, more than any other single fire in Texas history. By comparison, the second-most destructive fire on record, in April 2011, destroyed 168 homes, while the third, in December 2005, destroyed 116. Total insured losses caused by the Bastrop fire were estimated at $250 million.

Bastrop State Park

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife officials, only 50-100 acres of the Bastrop State Park
Bastrop State Park
Bastrop State Park is a state park in Bastrop County in central Texas. The park was established in 1938 and consists of stands of Loblolly Pines mixed with Post Oak and junipers.-History:...

's 5,926-acre premises remain following the wildfire. Two scenic overlooks constructed during the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 were destroyed, as well as the park's vintage Rain Shelter building.

Buescher State Park

Buescher State Park
Buescher State Park
Buescher State Park is a state park located just north of Smithville, Texas. The park consists of of public land donated to the state by Mr. Emil and Mrs. Elizabeth Buescher, as well as the City of Smithville.-History:...

 was closed for two weeks due to the wildfire threat, but has since reopened. Contrary to earlier reports, a Texas Parks & Wildlife press release says Buescher State Park was untouched by the wildfire.

Houston toad

The endangered Houston toad
Houston toad
The Houston toad is an endangered species of amphibian that is endemic to Texas in the United States. This toad was discovered in the late 1940s and named in 1953...

 is believed to have lost the vast majority of its habitat in the fire.

Lost Pines Forest

The Lost Pines Forest
Lost Pines Forest
The Lost Pines Forest is a belt of loblolly pines near Bastrop in Central Texas. The stand of pines is unique in Texas because it is a disjunct population of trees that is more than separated from, and yet closely genetically related to, the vast expanse of pine trees of the East Texas Piney...

, a disjunct population
Disjunct distribution
In biology, a taxon with a disjunct distribution is one that has two or more groups that are related but widely separated from each other geographically...

 of loblolly pine
Loblolly Pine
Pinus taeda is one of several pines native to the Southeastern United States, from central Texas east to Florida, and north to Delaware. It is particularly dominant in the eastern half of North Carolina, where there are huge expanses consisting solely of Loblolly Pine trees...

 trees thought to have originated in or before the Pleistocene era
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

, was heavily affected by the fire.

Political response

In response to the wildfire, Governor of Texas
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 Rick Perry
Rick Perry
James Richard "Rick" Perry is the 47th and current Governor of Texas. A Republican, Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 1998 and assumed the governorship in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. Perry was elected to full...

 forewent his presidential campaign stop in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and returned home on Tuesday, September 6, to "address the public and organize requests for more federal aid". Perry and the Texas Legislature
Texas Legislature
The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The Legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin...

 drew criticism over their roles in substantial budget cuts to the Texas Forest Service
Texas Forest Service
Texas Forest Service is an agency chartered by the Texas Legislature to manage the interests of Texas' forests. It is a part of the Texas A&M University System...

 and volunteer fire department
Volunteer fire department
See also the Firefighter article and its respective sections regarding VFDs in other countries.A volunteer fire department is a fire department composed of volunteers who perform fire suppression and other related emergency services for a local jurisdiction.The first organized force of...

s, both of which the state relies heavily upon for combating wildfires. Mario Gallegos
Mario Gallegos, Jr.
Mario Valentin Gallegos, Jr. is a Democratic politician in the U.S. state of Texas. He is the current senator from District 6 in the Texas Senate, which serves a portion of Harris County...

, Jim Dunnam, Kirk Watson
Kirk Watson
Kirk Watson is a Texas attorney and Democratic politician from Austin. He served as Austin mayor from 1997 to 2001. He ran unsuccessfully for Texas Attorney General in the 2002 election, defeated by the Republican Greg Abbott...

, the Center for Public Policy Priorities
Center for Public Policy Priorities
The Center for Public Policy Priorities is an Austin-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit policy institute committed to improving public policies to better the economic and social conditions of low- and moderate-income Texans.- Origin :...

 and others opined that these budget cuts exacerbated conditions. Perry criticized the Obama administration for delays in responding to requests made to FEMA
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders...

 for relief aid. On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 personally called Perry regarding the fires. That same day, the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 issued a formal statement, saying that "Over the last several days, at the request of the Governor, the Administration has granted eight Fire Management Assistance Grants, making federal funds available to reimburse eligible costs associated with efforts to combat the fires. FEMA is actively working with state and local officials to conduct damage assessments and to identify areas where additional federal assistance may be warranted."

Community and social media efforts

Members of the community were noted for voluntarily working to save several homes from destruction by the wildfire. On September 7, a Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 page entitled Bastrop Fire – Adopt a Family was created to help match up homeless victims with those willing to help house them or provide other assistance.

External links

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