Wildfires Consuming Bastrop State Park
Sept. 6, 2011
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BASTROP, Texas – Despite earlier optimism, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department firefighters and other personnel were still facing a fire threat to historic structures at Bastrop State Park today.
According to TPWD incident commander Robert Crossman, all but about 100 acres of the 6,000-acre park have been blackened by fire, but firefighters have so far been able to save most of the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed structures on the park, with two possible exceptions – two CCC observation structures believed to have been damaged.
“We still have critical fire behavior threatening the CCC cabins,” Crossman said. He said firefighters, assisted by newly arrived federal firefighters, dealt with two flare-ups at the park overnight, one at midnight and the other at 5 a.m. today. Firefighters are using heavy equipment, much of it provided by donors who responded to a TPWD call for assistance, and water trucks to build fire breaks and saturate the ground around the historic structures. Among those providing immediate assistance include: Holt Cat, Comanche Ranch, Jimmy Evans Construction, Ranger Excavating and Al Niece Equipment.
“The outpouring of support from these companies has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “Without hesitation, they sent over heavy equipment, machinery and operators, and water tanks to aid our firefighters on site. These resources have been indispensible.”
TPWD has about 75-plus personnel responding to wildfires in the Bastrop area, including state park firefighters, parks police and game wardens.
The fire has damaged the regional state park headquarters on State Highway 71, about four miles from the park. In addition, several TPWD employees lost their homes in Bastrop County. Some TPWD vehicles and other equipment were also destroyed.
State parks officials are still planning to make an all-out effort to save historic structures on the park, many of which were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
“Much of Bastrop State Park has been burned and our firefighters have once again shown their mettle with incredible effort to save the historic district of this National Historic Landmark,” said State Parks Director Brent Leisure, whose home and that of Buescher State Park superintendent Cullen Sartor were among those destroyed by the fire. “Countless homes have been saved. Despite the outstanding effort, this fire has outstripped our capabilities to protect all things.”
While Bastrop State Park and nearby Buescher State Park are closed, all other area parks remain open, including nearby Palmetto State Park and Monument Hill State Historic Site.
Park officials are also concerned about threats to the endangered Houston toad. The 124,000-acre Lost Pines area of Bastrop County, which includes the state park, is home to the largest known population of the small, reclusive amphibians in the U.S.
Leisure said the toad has already been stressed by the ongoing drought and loss of habitat caused by wildfires will likely impact the toad further.