Wildfire ravages Lost Pines Area February 28, 2009
Winds were hitting 30 MPH and above when a power line fell and started a grass fire on Wilderness Ridge, a few miles west of Smithville. The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department was called to respond early Saturday afternoon. The wind-driven wildfire raced through the Alum Creek/Cottle Town area destroying 1,200 acres, 28 homes, 12 businesses, dozens of vehicles and miles of fencing.
The winds were so strong that the fires jumped across Hwy 71 and headed South. The Texas Forest Service brought in heavy equipment including several light spotter planes, two large air tankers/bombers and a Chinook heavy lift helicopter. Two Texas Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters were used to made numerous precision water bucket drops over hot-spots.
All Saturday afternoon, citizens of Smithville listened to first hand reports of the fire and how fast it was spreading. The Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce was having our annual banquet in the Smithville Recreation Center. There was a discussion on whether it should be postponed. It was decided the banquet would go on as planned, understanding that at a moments notice, the Recreation Center could be needed as an emergency evacuation center. Luckly, near the end of the banquet, the Red Cross workers showed up. The Chamber President announce to the crowd that we needed to end the banquet, clean up and turn it over to the Red Cross. The room was filled with many of Smithville greatest volunteers and within 8 minutes, all decorations were down, tables were folded and stored under the stage, 300 chairs were stacked and returned to a closet. And cots, blankets and pillows were set up. Left over Banquet food was left for the volunteers, the evacuees, firemen and emergency crews. It was the fastest cleanup in Chamber history. Twenty nine people spent Saturday, March 28, in the gym of the Smithville Rec Center. All B&B’s were called and many evacuees needed rooms that allowed Pets. Unfortunely for those in need, the Katy House was already full with a group of Scrap Bookers.
With the help of many firefighters the fires were contained by Monday afternoon. Luckly, both our wonderful State Parks, Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park were not damaged by the fires. The community continues to reach out to those families that lost so much in the fires. The Smithville Ministerial Alliance is serving as a clearinghouse for donations. Call Bro. Michael Murphy at 512 237-2176 to find out how you can help.