Rolling Pines Fire: Bastrop County fire almost fully contained

The Rolling Pines Fire is 95% contained and the acres burned remains at 812, according to the latest update from the Texas A&M Forest Service. 

Officials say crews are out in Bastrop County and continue to patrol and mop up across the fire area on Monday, Jan. 24. They say minimal smoke has been observed inside the containment lines as scattered heavy downed wooden material continues to smolder.

Heading into the weekend on January 21, the fire was 70% contained as smoldering ashes and charred pine trees filled the landscape scarred from the wildfire at Bastrop State Park. Firefighters continued to gain the upper hand despite a change in winds. 

"Those containment lines held due to the overnight work from the crews and the cold they continued to patrol and continue to mop up," said Alex Bregenzer a Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson

More than 800 acres of the once green and lushes pine trees are now filled with destruction. The change in weather brought hope, as the rain and freezing conditions helped to keep the fire conditions low. "Crews are going to continue to mitigate any heat sources that they find, and they’ll be working on the south edge of the perimeter working on that containment line making sure that’s holding," Bregnezer said.

Nearly 200 firefighters were in the area extinguishing any flare-ups and officials warn the fight is still far from over. "Just so you are aware the smoke will continue to blow for the next couple of days as we fight this fire but don’t be alarmed if you do see smoke in the air," said Bregenzer.

Those who live nearby are still skeptical as to why a controlled burn was done at the park in the first place during a time when it was dry and windy. "I wouldn’t have done it. I would have called it off at the risk of losing my job because look what happened," said Curtis Childers who lives nearby to where the fire is burning.

While a lot of the area is now reopened, those on the front lines are urging caution as the fight continues.

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape issued a statement on January 21 saying he has asked Texas Parks and Wildlife for a "full accounting of what happened, what went wrong, what mistakes were made, what has been learned, and how what has been learned will be used to better protect the lives and property of our residents in the future. We want to know every detail about this fire."

Judge Pape says he expects to receive a plan from TPWD "very soon" that lays out a full review of the Rolling Pines Fire. He stressed in his statement that "To be clear, Texas Parks and Wildlife did not ask for our permission to conduct a prescribed burn this past Tuesday, nor did we give them permission to do so. As a state agency, they conduct these events under the direction of a fire boss using national standards for prescribed burns. I have made it clear to TPWD that the use of controlled burns in Bastrop County must never again threaten our citizens or their residences."

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