Residents evacuate as fire burns near Inks Lake

Contributed/Daniel Adams Art Gallery This photo by local artist Daniel Adams captures the fantastic image of a water drop occurring in an effort to cease progress of the Hoover Valley fire on Sunday, July 29. First Responders from Burnet, Llano, Blanco, Williamson, and Travis Counties teamed together Sunday afternoon and continue to fight the fire off County Road 116 as residents and campers in the area fled towards safer ground.






By Savanna Gregg

The Highlander

Around 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, a grassfire sparked off of County Road 116, better known as Hoover Valley Road, and quickly escalated to yet another raging wildfire for Burnet County. By 7 p.m., the fire had burned about 500 acres of State Park property and was zero-percent contained, leading to evacuations throughout the area.
The Deer Springs subdivision off of State Highway 29 West closed, and County Road 116 and Park Road 4 in Burnet County were shut down, allowing passage only for fleeing residents and first responders. Inks Lake State Park was evacuated and Camp Longhorn conducted a voluntary evacuation as a precautionary measure after it became apparent that the blaze was out of control.
Though a cause for the fire has not been determined, Texas A&M Forest Service Information Officer Kari Hines stated to various news agencies in a press hearing Sunday evening that the dry, hot weather was to blame for the difficulty in containing the blaze.
"There have been a lot of fires in the past few weeks in the Central and North Texas regions, and they have been fueled by how dry it has been, but luckily there is no high wind today," Hines said. "This fire is a little different because of the proximity to high populations."
So far, the Hoover Valley fire has threatened 150 residences in the Hoover Valley area and 400 people were evacuated from Inks Lake State Park, most of whom are visitors to the area enjoying a weekend of camping. 
An opportunity for respite was offered by the City of Burnet, as it opened the doors of the Burnet Community Center to evacuees from the threatened area; the community center will remain open as long as it is needed.
Burnet County Judge James Oakley joined city and county officials near the scene to assess the fire Sunday afternoon and took time to discuss it as evacuees filed into the community center Sunday evening.
"I think we have been fairly lucky thus far in that this fire was pretty much contained to the State Park area and there weren't any structures lost," Oakley said. "Things are so dry and the fuel is so spark-ready that this fire burned hot and moved fast."
Oakley witnessed the fire move towards State Highway 29 West and jump across the pavement to the other side, as it spread down the area off of Farm-to-Market Road 690.
"I watched it jump a 75-foot road like nothing," Oakley said. "It just sailed it."
Oakley commended the local and state officials working the fire, as well as the volunteers who have offered their time to protect and serve the people of their community. 
"What it is is a testament to teamwork," Oakley said. "Volunteers from all over the county, state folks, emergency medical personnel at the ready; it is just teamwork. It is not our first rodeo, and it's not going to be our last, but every fire that happens we learn to better hone our skills and ability to address the issues that arise. Today, this event happened but I am very proud of everyone and all the coordination that occured with the resources in our area that piled in on this to get it under control."
According to Kari Hines, about 17 fire departments representing Burnet, Llano, Blanco, Williamson and Travis counties have been working the fire. As of Hines' press briefing at 8:00 p.m. Sunday evening, forward progression of the fire had stopped, though crews were still working to put out the flames inside the perimeter.
"Most of the action is inside the perimeter and it is not growing in size right now," Hines said. "Nothing is obviously on fire, but there will still be things burning that didn't get the chance to burn before. We want to make sure it is really safe for the public; there is a lot more to public safety than just active fire."
As of 8:45 p.m. Sunday evening, the Deer Springs subdivision was reopened and residents living in the area east of Farm-to-Market 3509 and County Road 143 were able to return to their homes, though Park Road 4 and County Road 116 continue to be closed to ensure the safety of residents in that area. At around 10:00 p.m. the fire was deemed 10% contained. The Texas A&M Forest Service will continue updating officials on the progress of the first responders' efforts and the Burnet Bulletin will post those updates as they come available. The Burnet Community Center will continue to welcome evacuees as needed; the center is located at 401 E. Jackson Street, Burnet.

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