Power Line Sparks Likely Caused Bastrop, Texas Blaze

September 22, 2011

Fire officials say sparks from electric power lines likely started the blaze that became the most destructive wildfire in Texas history.

The blaze started about 25 miles east of Austin near Bastrop Sept. 4, destroying more than 1,500 homes and killing two people.

More than 180 fires erupted around Labor Day across the rain-starved Lone Star State. The Texas Forest Service confirmed that the number of homes destroyed by the Bastrop County Complex fire at 1,554. At least 240 additional homes have been reported lost in other fires since Sept. 4, for a total of approximately 1,626 statewide, the TFS previously reported.

Four people have died in September Texas wildfires, including the two in Bastrop County.

The Insurance Council of Texas previously reported that insured losses in the fires could reach to more than $250 million statewide and more than $150 million in Bastrop County alone. Those figures are expected to rise.

The Texas Forest Service wouldn’t elaborate on the cause of the Bastrop fire to The Associated Press. However, a copy of the report obtained by the Austin American-Statesman states the massive blaze started as two fires ignited about five miles apart around the same time.

One fire began when winds toppled a dead pine tree onto power lines, showering the dry vegetation below with sparks. The other fire ignited when fallen tree branches became tangled with power lines, showering dry grass and branches with sparks.

The Texas Forest Service has advised area residents to remove pine needles and other debris from around their property to limit the resurgence of the fire, which is mostly contained. The TFS has said hot spots still remain.

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