Hidden Pines fire 50 percent contained, some evacuees to return home

SMITHVILLE, Texas— Authorities in Bastrop County said the Hidden Pines fire spans about 4,582 acres and is now 50 percent contained.

More than 200 people from around the state are working to contain the flames.

Bastrop County officials said crews are making some progress building fire lines.

"We've been playing defense on this fire for the last four days and today we're in containment mode, which means we're not going to let that fire score anything else," said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape.

A map from the Texas A&M Forest Service shows structures they believe burned in the fire. According to the map, 48 home-like structures and seven commercial buildings have burned. Firefighters have saved 95 homes and 15 commercial properties.

"I have a team deployed this morning and they're out there working now getting me a very accurate assessment of what's damaged what's destroyed and what's left," Mike Fisher the Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator, said.

About 400 people were evacuated during the fire in Bastrop County. Some of them have been allowed to return home.

Officials say 332 evacuees had registered with the Smithville Recreation Center as of Saturday evening. Authorities said anyone who has not registered should do so as soon as possible. That includes those who have been allowed to return home.

"As we receive new areas of containment, then we will be able to open up new areas and allow reentry when the time comes," said Pape.   

County leaders said they have won some battles this week.

"We've gotten this far without serious injuries and that was my main objective, trying to make it safe," said Fisher.

The Bluebonnet Electric Company is working to rebuild electric lines and turn on the power in affected neighborhoods. So far they have restored power to the first two zones of homes, and they expect to return power to zone three and part of zone four by 8pm Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bastrop County Sheriff said his officers are working to keep new areas from catching fire.

"I've had officers issue six burn-ban violation notices yesterday in Bastrop County," Sheriff Terry Pickering said.

"Why on earth would anybody willfully start a fire in these kinds of conditions? That is the most irresponsible act anybody could do and we will throw the book at anybody who is guilty of willfully violating the burn ban," Pape said.

County leaders said they will call in additional help Sunday in case the weather patterns change and the wind picks up. They said firefighters will remain in the area weeks after the fire is out to make sure no hotspots re-ignite.

There is a website set up to find fire information, donate to victims, volunteer or get help. That's www.bastropcountytexas.gov.