Hidden Pines firefighters saving more than just homes

SMITHVILLE, Texas— The Hidden Pines fire has not just created fresh scares, it has reopened old ones. But thanks to the work of area firefighters, they helped one family avoid another significant loss.

The sound of the flames still haunts many in Bastrop County. More than 1,600 homes were lost. Walter and Jeri Winslett's was one of them.

“We had been there 38 years. My dad bought that property when I was an eight-year-old child. So I remembered being there as a kid,” Walter said.

Not only did they lose their home, but their business was also destroyed in the 2011 fires— their workshop and art studio, as well as almost four decades of memories, all gone. 

“It was a really sad day. It was a wonderful house for us. It was designed just for us, by us, built by us,” Jeri said.

And like the many others, the Winslett's were soon back on their feet. After months of recovering, the Winslett's settled at the “Mosaic,” making that their new home and art studio. But little did they know, that dream, too, almost went up in flames.

Their newest work shop, the pipeline to their business, was in the path of the Hidden Pines fire. Thanks to the firefighters in the area, history did not repeat itself.

“When we saw the headlights of the fire truck, it just made him so much more comfortable to know that they were checking on it. Making sure it wasn't burning,” Jeri said. “It was a great relief just to know, just to drive out, and see through the smoke that my shop was still standing out there,” Walter said.

For the Winslett’s, the fire fighters saved more than just a building.

“It's my livelihood, it's a large part of who I am, it's my identity. I am so grateful," Walter said.