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The Fire: Inside the Bastrop County Complex Fire (2011)

Carolyn Banks

Sound | 2011

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  •  Fire spreading 
  •  Rescuing horses 
  •  Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald 
  •  Extreme Makeover: Home Edition 
  •  TED Foundation’s Inside Out Project 
 
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Written and directed by Carolyn Banks, this film documents the Bastrop County Complex Fire. Burning from September 4 to October 10, 2011, the Bastrop fire became the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. The fire destroyed nearly 1,700 homes, severely damaged Bastrop County’s ecosystem, and caused two fatalities. Narrated by Dan Welcher, this film covers the events of the fire by interviewing first responders, government officials, and civilians as well as showing police footage and television news coverage. Coverage continues through the aftereffects of the fire. Individuals who had to wait two to three weeks to find out the fate of their homes are shown sifting through the wreckage or rejoicing at their undamaged homes. Recovery efforts are documented, including the “We’re Coming Back” campaign and a visit from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The film is dedicated to Michael Troy Farr and Vickie Keenan, the fire’s two human victims, and interviewer Davis McAuley, who died during production. The film closes with a shot of new growth amidst the burned forest, a sign of hope and the future to come.
On September 4, 2011, severe drought conditions and strong winds from Tropical Storm Lee caused three separate wildfires to develop in in the pine forests of Bastrop County. The fires soon merged into one large blaze, immediately impacting the suburban neighborhoods of Circle D-KC Estates and Tahitian Village. Emergency personnel completely contained the fire by October 11. The fire caused two confirmed deaths and destroyed 1,691 homes. The nearby Bastrop State Park was seriously affected, with only 50 to 100 acres of its 5,926-acre premises escaping fire damage. The wildfire remains the most destructive in Texas history. The ideal combination of drought, high winds, unseasonably warm temperatures, and low humidity produced more than 31,000 total wildfires in Texas during 2011. The 4 million acres burned accounted for 47 percent of the total acreage burned across the United States that year.