Residents allowed to return as crews close in on full containment of Hidden Pines fire

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*Update 10:30 AM 10/20* Bastrop County officials announced that the fire is now 80 percent contained and that no new acreage has been burned. They also announced that residents in the affected area are being allowed to go back to look at and assess their properties.

Officials stress that today is not the day for cleanup but just to check on damage. Officials began allowing residents to return starting at 10:30 a.m. 

A Multi-Agency Resource Center and Volunteer Resource Center will be open at 108 Main Street starting on Thursday, October 22. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The center will be open at the same times on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, October 25 the center will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Officials say they will make a determination on Sunday to see if the center needs to remain open past that date.

This is an update to a previous story. The original version is as follows:

"Mop up to me is one of the hardest jobs on fire because what we're trying to accomplish, is to find every little area that's smoking and put it out. What that takes is hand-tools, it takes water, it takes stirring around in the dirt trying to remove the heat in any way that they can," says Commander Mark Morales, Blue Team.

That allowed more residents to go back into their homes. Authorities reopened old Antioch Road. Others are still waiting, like Gary Baltis, who has been staying at a hotel for the past 7 days.

"I understand what all the first responders and police officers and everything are doing, but there are some suggestions that can be made to make better relations with the people who have been removed from their homes," says Gary Baltis, Bastrop County Resident.

Frustration grows as resident say their concerns aren't being heard. Baltis says with so many authorities, why can't any of them check on their homes.
"You've got somebody with a billygoat out there and an officer will put them in the car and drive them over there and let them tend to their billygoat. I've got a $250 thousand house sitting on a hill, which is my whole life, and it's just right down the road and they won't. It's just ridiculous," says Baltis.

He says the Game Warden eventually drove him to his house, which is still standing. Others aren't as fortunate, 64 homes have been lost along with several other outbuildings.

"When this happens that's all that you need, some reassurance," says Baltis.

Bluebonnet Electric has restored all power to residents. The challenge they face now, is cutting down dangerous trees. There are more than 1300 that need to be removed.

"I'm bound to have some outages. If we get some heavy rains and we haven't gotten to some of those trees, there's some that are going to fall. There's maybe some that will just fall anyway. Those of us who went through 2011, know that we experience not weeks but months of falling trees," says Mark Rose, Bluebonnet Electric.

The cost for Bluebonnet Electric so far is $2.7 million, that's compared to $29 million 2011. But we're told you can't put a cost on helping rebuild lives.

Watch the entire 5pm Hidden Pines Press Conference on FOX 7's YouTube Channel.