Sunday, September 3rd, 2011. The kids had Monday off from school, so after church we trekked up to Austin to visit the family. That afternoon a fire started nearby in a community called Steiner Ranch. 25 homes were destroyed and many people literally fled as the fire took over their properties with no warning.
Our worst drought ever had been the perfect setting for some awful strong dry winds, which ironically came from the backside of a hurricane making it’s way up Louisiana. The slightest spark set our land ablaze so quickly. And none of us in the hill country had ever experienced this…I have no idea how people live in areas that are affected by wildfires often.
We drove up to the Mansfield Dam to get a view of it. The highway (620) was closed, which was fine, we didn’t want to be in the way. But the Dam gave a view of the helicopters scooping water from the lake then dumping it on the fire.
That same day, the fire in Bastrop started. Along with one on the other side of my parents, in an area called Spicewood. This was the view driving down 620 the next day. These fires were all in Spicewood (the Steiner one had been extinguished).
The next morning, that haze on the horizon from my home in San Antonio was the smoke from the Bastrop fire, which was huge, largely uncontained, and still consuming land quickly.
As I tried to shake the fear that had taken hold while we were in Austin, I looked out my second story window and realized we weren’t safe in San Antonio, either. This fire was in Camp Bullis, 3 miles from my home.
It was extinguished fairly quickly and as you can tell by the plume going straight up, the winds had died down, which made containing it so much more possible!
The military covered the area with water and fire retardant the next day, just to be safe. The problem with our drought is that the fires would go underground, to the roots of the trees, and keep smoldering, just waiting for a little wind to send them aflame again.
And aflame they went, again, the second day…
Can you see the airplane in the picture below, dumping the retardant?
Thankfully it didn’t burn any structures, just land. As they were managing to put it out, this was the draw back shot, to show how very much smoke it had produced.
We’re still in a drought, 5 months later, but last month we received 8 inches of rain, and I don’t find myself surveying the horizon anymore. But what a scary time!