AUSTIN, Texas — A wildfire in a Central Texas state park on Tuesday forced the evacuation of dozens of homes in the city of Bastrop — the site of a deadly blaze more than a decade ago — and officials said a prescribed burn may be to blame.
Bastrop County and local fire management officials told reporters Tuesday night that while it was too early to conclusively determine the cause of the fire, it was likely linked to the planned 150-acre prescribed burn in Bastrop County State Park.
“We do think that it is likely that embers from the prescribed fire were the cause of the fire outside the park," said Carter Smith, the executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The Texas parks department initiated the prescribed burn at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Smith said. It's the second prescribed burn in that area of Bastrop County State Park since the Bastrop Complex wildfire of 2011 that burned about 53 square miles, destroyed nearly 1,700 homes and killed four people.
Mary Bingman, 62, and her husband lost her home, all of their possessions and their two dogs to the 2011 fire. So Bingman said she knew exactly what was coming when she heard airplanes flying over her home in Bastrop.
"I said to myself, I know that sound," Bingman said. "I called my neighbors and they said there was a fire and that we'd probably have to evacuate."
County officials had previously warned local residents about wildfire risks, but Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said fire management officials followed the criteria for prescribed burns.
Pape later added Tuesday that about 1.2 square mile has burned. The fire is 30% contained, according to the Texas Forest Service.
More than 250 families in the path of the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County were asked to leave their homes Tuesday night, but local officials said no homes had been damaged so far. No injuries or deaths have been reported.
“Based on everything they knew this morning, it was an appropriate day to burn," Pape said. "None of us can predict the weather more than 15 minutes ahead of time, and sometimes things happen that we just don't anticipate."
The National Weather Service reported winds in the Austin area ranging from 15 to 25 mph with gusts ranging from 30 to 40 mph.
Dozens of Texas fire and public safety agencies are working to contain the fire and protect homes. Officials urged local residents to heed any evacuation orders and to avoid the area.
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative reported that the utility was asked by the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management to "de-energize power lines serving 348 members in an area along Texas 21 to ensure the area is safe for emergency crews and residents."
Authorities closed the area over the park to flights, leaving it open for firefighting assistance. Several local roads were closed to traffic.
More wind and unseasonably warm temperatures – with a high of almost 80 degrees – were forecast for Wednesday, with a chance of rain and a cooldown expected Thursday.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Bastrop fire: Planned burn may be cause; evacuations ordered