Monday, January 16, 2012

Rebuilding After the Destruction

This is a story about resilience after tragedy. A story that began with perfect conditions for such a tragedy. High temperatures, high winds and a drought. No one knew it at the time, but it would be the driest, hottest summer on record in Central Texas. The wind blew, trees fell on power lines, sparks were generated and a flame began. Then it took off. One acre, then two. Before it could be contained, thousands of acres, thousands of houses, numerous animals, one State Park and two lives would be lost. 

It began on September 4, 2011. There is even a Wikipedia entry for this infamous blaze under Bastrop County Complex Fire. According to Wikipedia, “on September 6, the Texas Forest Service released a statement describing the fires behavior as ‘unprecedented’ and stating that ‘no one on the face of this earth has ever fought fires in these extreme conditions.’”

It was not completely extinguished until October 10, 2011. 

A tropical storm had landed on the Texas coast and moved northeast. We didn’t get the rain from it, but we did get the wind, which propelled the flames. 

I remember telling a friend that I had never lived in close proximity to fires before; I had lived where we had hurricanes come in South Alabama, but never fires. She had lived in this area all of her life and she said, “Uh, this is new for all of us too. We have never had anything this bad before here either.”

Of course, I don’t live in the affected area. I live in Hays County, about thirty miles away. But close enough, that I could look to the southeast sky and see the smoke from the unprecedented blaze.

One of the most severely affected areas was the Bastrop State Park. All but 95 acres of the 5,926 acre park were affected. I visited the park to take photos of the progress four months after the tragedy.It reminded me of the woods in Alabama after they had been logged. Many of the trees were cut down; that is, the ones that had not already fallen after being burned. Much of the park was closed for repairs. The attendant at the park told me that they had crews cutting down trees, electrical crews, and bulldozers moving the logs and debris. I saw some of this in progress. Many of the park roads are still closed for safety concerns. The attendant told me that they would not allow entry into any road that was not cleared for at least 100 feet on each side of the road. Sawdust now covers the ground where trees,leaves and pine needles once stood. Trees that were fully adorned with leaves and pine needles now stand bare. They look naked without the greenery. Trees that are still standing are now black from being burned and from soot from the smoke. The park has been transformed from the pristine beautiful area that it once was. 

But a lot of work has already been done, and continues to occur.  I am convinced that this park will be restored to its beautiful setting.

What follows are the pictures that I took from the devastation and rebuilding.
Logs and trees cut down to prevent them from falling on someone or something.

This was a building built in the 1930's. The wood was burnt off of it.

Notice all of the stumps left after trees being cut.This was all dense forest.

Blackened bark on leafless trees.

Remains of a pine tree.

This once forest area now cleared.

More skeletal remains of forest.

So sad to see this so bare now.

Back in the day, the travel trailers would have been obscured by the growth.

Surviving trees.

Workers use fire-damaged tree remains to build fence.

These Forest Service employees are working hard to recycle trees and restore beauty.

This electrical supply, damaged by fire is still cordoned off.

Blackened pine tree.

More damaged trees.

Linking up with Jen:

copyright 2012 by Kathy Robbins


  1. When I saw your first picture, I thought, does she live in Austin?? You are so close to me (relatively speaking). I'm in Williamson County, in Cedar Park, but still close when you consider this blog world. Maybe we can meet up sometime. Are you considering coming to the retreat?

  2. I would love to come to the retreat. But I would have to do day visits and not stay at the hotel if that is possible.Also, it will depend on the High Calling writer's retreat date at Laity Lodge. I don't know whether or not that has been set. I need to check that. I went this year and want to go every year from now on. It was really great . And I would love to meet up sometime. I was really excited when I saw that you are in the Austin area!

  3. I remember watching all this on TV.

  4. Yes, Shanda. It was amazing! Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Yes! And this is 4 months later. I wanted to get in to take pics right afterwards, but I didn't want to exacerbate the confusion... Thanks you for stopping by, Kathleen

  6. I lived in Tahitian Village at the time of the fire, and I can tell you it was a terrible experience. I worked from home, as a technical advisor for a major computer company, and my Wife busts in the door while I was on a call yelling that we are being evacuated. I imagine that was awkward for the customer I was helping. The only hotel we could get was right next to the state park entrance, and we were evacuated from there the following day when the fire started crossing the main road into Tahitian Village. It was stressful not knowing if our house and belongings were gone, but I have to say it was quite a sight to be right next to such a massive fire. I'll probably never see anything like that again.

  7. Thank you for stopping by and relating that scary story. We can only hope that you will never see anything like it again. So scary. The pictures that were coming out were scary. Did your house survive?