Bastrop County transitions into recovery phase

SMITHVILLE, Texas—  Bastrop County is transitioning into the recovery phase as the Hidden Pines fire remains stable.

A multi-agency resource center will be up and running by Thursday morning. The road to recovery won't be any easy one, but the hope is that it will make the community a stronger one.

"We hope these people will stay in Bastrop County. We hope they'll rebuild and continue to be a part of our community," Judge Paul Pape of Bastrop County said.

Authorities announced that Wednesday was a day of stability. The Hidden Pines fire remains at 80 percent contained, with more then 4,500 acres burned and 64 homes lost.

It will take many volunteers and donations to help with the cleanup.

"It's pretty brutal work. It's tough. A fire, it's heavy, it's dirty, it's exhausting work. We get a lot of heat out here, so it's dehydrating. Volunteers need to take breaks and all that kind of stuff. So cleanup is really what we're going to be doing, buckets, wheel barrels, sifters out there in the field, moving piles of metal, debris," Kate Johnston, with the Long-Term Recovery Team, said. 

The public was asked to stay out of the fire footprint Wednesday. Only property owners were allowed back, giving them time to heal on their own. Over the next several months, however, they will need support.

"These are people who are going to need to fill up their homes with everything that they lost, and that to them is something they want to purchase, probably. Also, more importantly, the monetary donations give us the opportunity for long-term recovery to really happen, where we are rebuilding homes or repairing things," Johnston said.

The multi-agency resource center will be in Smithville at 108 Main Street. That's where the community will find out anything and everything related to the fire.

There will be a lot of services for residents, like the American Red Cross and counseling. DPS will also be there to help those who lost their driver's license.

"Their minds and their brains are like a tangled ball of emotions, about 80 emotions. They've never experienced all those emotions firing off at once. A lot of them will walk around kind of like a zombie, you really can't put things together. Our first assignment is to really pull them out of that trauma. It may be from a level 10 to level two, so they can begin processing how to move forward," Daniel Geraci, with Disaster Relief Network, said.

In moving forward, authorities say residents need to respect the burn ban, especially when what started the fire is still unknown.

"Whether there was a farming accident or an intentional violation of the burn ban, the devastation is the same, the hurt is the same, the loss is the same," says Pape.

One positive is that authorities now say 113 homes were saved by firefighters

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