SMITHVILLE, Texas— The Hidden Pines Fire in Bastrop County has caused 400 home evacuations, but many of the evacuated residents finally got some answers Thursday evening.
In just three days, the fire has destroyed 34 structures along the way—most of them being homes. James Elam, the Smithville Fire Chief, says the department has 29 members, 17 working the very stubborn wildfire.
“Since this fire has started, I've only had six hours of sleep,” Chief Elam said. And as darkness fell on Thursday night, no sign of sleep as the Hidden Pines Fire still raged on, illuminating the night sky with an eerie orange glow that brings back bad memories of 2011.
Fire crews intentionally ignited some vegetation to create a firebreak. Earlier in the day, firefighters with the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department loaded up and headed back to the front lines.
“Bad. It's bad. Roads are getting, so we can't get down. Trees are falling, power poles are falling,” Chief Elam said.
Firefighters from all over the state, and as far away as Florida and Georgia, are helping fight. Chief Elam says the Smithville community has helped them a great deal. He says they've got enough water, Gatorade and food.
But now, they need money for repairs.
“Mostly cash donations. We've got things breaking down, engines on trucks, oil filters, breather filters, just different stuff, hoses being burnt,” Elam said.
Late Thursday afternoon, at a community meeting, Bastrop County residents listened nervously as a list of addresses were read aloud— homes that are confirmed destroyed by the wildfire.
John Johnson's home was lost in the 2011 Bastrop fire, but this time he is not on the list.
“I saw the fire when it started. I called 911 and reported it, and they didn't know about a fire, so I'm not sure I'm the first time but close to it,” Johnson said.
At the meeting, Bastrop county officials said 158 citizens are registered at the Rec Center where evacuees have been seeking shelter.
Some slept in cots at the center, others at hotels. Johnson, his wife, and his dog Samari have high praise for the hotel they've been staying in.
“Those guys have been super sweet. They don't take dogs, but they took my dog,” Johnson said. “When I told them he's housebroken, ‘you don't have to worry about anything like that,’ they said, ‘we'll clean to the mess don't worry about it. God bless you.’”
Johnson is thankful his home is safe, and he's anxious to get back to it. Chief Elam is hoping to make that happen for everyone.
“Just trying to get this thing under control, man. “It's in God's hands now. We need rain bad,” Elam said. Rain, however, doesn’t seem likely this weekend.
For a full list of the homes destroyed by the fires and how you can help, click here. If you'd like to make some monetary donations, Bastrop county officials are telling the community to go to Bastrop County Long Term Recovery.