September 2, 2012
News as it happened
This weekend is Labor Day. Last year we were in the middle of a drought and on Labor Day the winds picked up. Fires that might have otherwise been localized spread until they became something like I've never seen. In Bastrop County the fire began as local news with residents evacuating and fire fighters on the scene. Then it grew. The fire department requested help from other fire departments, from helicopters, from anybody who could possibly help with the growing nightmare. In the end 34,000 acres and 1,500 homes burned. Over a million trees were lost. That is only Bastrop County. Steiner Ranch also had fires and the residents had to evacuate. There was a fire in Leander, there was a fire in Pflugerville, there was a fire near Riatta Apartments in Austin, there was a fire in San Antonio. We all sat around wondering where the next was going to hit.
I thank God that I was not harmed, nor any of my property. I remember putting the cat carriers by the door so that in case I had to evacuate I would be ready to round up the cats. (You couldn't be preemptive and go somewhere else like with a hurricane; nobody knew where the next fire would happen.) I carried a packed suitcase in the trunk of my car for days. My younger brother was living with his family in Australia for a few months at the time. He heard the news over there that Steiner Ranch was burning – not terribly far from his home.
It was terrible to not know. To not know where the next fire would start. To smell the scent of smoke and water from miles away and know that it wasn't over. To see haze when you looked out the window. To see all of the people who were out of their home and in shelters, to see people on TV who knew that their homes were gone and to see people who didn't know. To feel the illusion of security draining away.
A year later they are still rebuilding. Organizations like the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team are helping people who don't have the resources to rebuild. This year we have had rain and it hasn't been over 100º for a record number of days like last year. But, who can forget how easy it is for everything to go up in smoke? Especially when Colorado has so recently gone through the same thing.
Here's to a better Labor Day 2012.