Powder Keg Pine Fire: 117-acre fire in Bastrop County fully contained

Officials with Texas A&M Forest Service say a wildfire in Bastrop County that burned 117 acres and led to dozens of homes being evacuated has now been fully contained.

The fire broke out around 1:30 p.m. on August 1 just north of State Highway 71 and near Harmon Road, about four miles east of Bastrop. It ballooned from one acre to 30 in about an hour. 

Smoke was seen in the area for a few days as interior pockets of vegetation continued to burn.

"I just got a page on my phone telling me that Harmon needed to be evacuated, and I opened my door and looked right out, and I see black smoke right across the street," said one resident who was evacuated.

Residents between Harmon and Pine Hill Roads were told to evacuate when the fire started. Shortly before 10 p.m. on August 1, the evacuation notice was lifted.

"When public safety officials tell you to evacuate, it's really important to heed those warnings," said Jake Gosschalk of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Crews from about 15 agencies worked to slowly contain the flames from the ground and the air, but the hot, windy and dry conditions did not help those efforts. 

"It's 106 degrees out here. There's no denying that it's hot and dry. With that being said, we're watching crews' health, making sure they're rotating out with fresh crews every so often," said Gosschalk.

For one evacuee who didn't want to be identified, the fire brought back traumatic memories of the deadly 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire. 

"We lost everything the first time, so now, having to rebuild everything all over again, for this to happen it was like great, 'here it goes again' type of thing," she said.

The Forest Service warns fire season is just getting started. 

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"With the drought conditions that we've had, July has been pretty intense already, and, as we move through August, I don't think it's going to slow down," said Erin Myers of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire shut down SH-71 westbound for several hours.

Smoldering hot spots sparked new fires Wednesday. Although officials say forward movement of the Powder Keg Pine Fire has been stopped. 

Bulldozers spent the day cutting containment lines as ground crews stamped out problem spots. Water drops from helicopters, which started around noon, targeted hard to reach areas.

"It's a really dirty burn. So trying to keep it from crossing back over the line again. It's difficult to do sometimes," said Richard Hensley from Oak Hill. 

An example of that was a small fire that ignited Wednesday afternoon, around metal shed on Second St. 

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Crews are working to put out the Powder Keg Pine Fire in Bastrop County that sparked on August 1.

Among the properties saved by fire fighters was Marge Dickey’s house.  

"I’d say they are doing a good job. They’d protect me, I told them last night, I said ‘man I think y’all are doing a good job’ cause they’d circle the block about every 15 minutes," said Dickey. 

Some of the tall flames that flashed across the area Tuesday afternoon jumped the road, according to Dickey, and into one of her trees. When asked if she thought about evacuating, Dickey gave a confident and defiant answer.

"Hell no."

The fire burned into the midnight hours. Those who did not evacuate used garden hoses to protect their property. River Perkins joined his family in keeping the flames away from his grandmother’s home.

"I didn’t feel like we made it last night until 1 a.m. when I went to sleep, at least that’s all I could hope for," said Perkins. 

A cause of the fire had not been released, although officials tell FOX 7 it's believed the fire started along the Hwy 71 Right of Way.

Firefighters know all it takes is one spark to start another big one. 

"We are already thinking about what the next one can be this afternoon, we are in a Red Flag Warning and folks need to pay attention to that just as they would to any other severe weather alert. Treat it no differently they need to change their actions and be careful. So avoiding anything that can make a spark outside," said Texas A&M Forest Service Spokesperson Walter Flocke. 

The gray ash and smoldering stumps are reminders of what can happen and that the fire threat will likely remain through month of August.