Some home designs helped protect against Bastrop Co. wildfire
10:29 AM CST on Wednesday, March 4, 2009
KVUE's Jessica Vess reports>More Weather
The Bastrop County wildfire continued to burn Tuesday evening. The Texas Forest Service says it has spread to nearly 1,500 acres. Firefighters say it could grow even larger.
It is 85 percent contained, but all of the roads are back open, allowing families to go home for the first time since this weekend.
Although the fire destroyed 28 homes and about a dozen businesses, many of the homes directly in the fire's path survived.
Justice Jones and Jan Ammann with the Texas Forest Service believe the homeowners helped protect their house by using fire-resistant materials and landscaping. The two work as a team, surveying the damaged land, looking for signs of survival.
"We know we had fire over here, but it didn't travel along the ground to get directly to the house," said Jones.
Jones says one house in particular was damaged by blowing embers which fell onto a wooden walkway. However, the house structure itself was spared. Jones says the homeowners used fire-resistant siding and rooftop shingles.
"Sometimes the devil is in the details. It really takes paying attention to the little things," said Jones.
A few miles up the road, Glen Reynolds also came back to his house still standing. His brick home is nearly void of trees in its direct path.
He also maintained a well-watered lawn which was kept short with drought resistant vegetation including succulents.
"His house was not as much in danger as some of the others," said Michal Hubbard of the Bastrop County Emergency Management Office.
Hubbard toured Reynolds' home Tuesday afternoon. She says his house is designed to protect itself during a wildfire, from the gravel drive to its concrete foundation and everything in between.
"(There is) a lot of space between his landscaping (and his house) so that there's nothing really up against his house. The concrete foundation (helps protect it too). There's no room for embers to creep underneath the house," said Hubbard.
It is unclear how many homes were spared in the wildfire because of how they were built. What is clear is that those steps make a difference.
"Even the best firefighters in the world can't save every home if they don't have the equipment or the manpower to do it," said Jones.
Bastrop County is hosting a workshop March 10 and March 24 to show homeowners how to prepare their house for wildfire. Registration is online.
Meanwhile, families who did lose their homes have the Bastrop County community trying to help them out. A donation organization developed over the weekend. Amber Wilson with the River Valley Christian Fellowship is leading the donation collections. She is also coordinating those who wish to help clear debris from the area.
The wildfire started early Saturday afternoon when 40 mph winds knocked down a power line.
The Texas Forest Service expects it will last through the week. Damage is estimated in the millions.