Labor Day weekend is supposed to mark the end of summer. It’s normally celebrated with family picnics, camping trips and football games. Instead, for Bastrop County residents this year, it was a weekend filled with tragedy. It’s believed two wildfires, a few miles apart, started within minutes of each other. High winds and historic drought conditions drove the fires together. Before they were contained they burned more than 34,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,600 homes and businesses and forced about 5,000 people to evacuate. Tragically, two people died.
At the onset of the fires, Bluebonnet worked with Bastrop County emergency management officials to de-energize power lines in the fire’s path so emergency responders and residents evacuating wouldn’t have another hazard to deal with. We did this while evacuating our headquarters and primary control room and activating our alternate control room. Throughout the event, we worked closely with Bastrop County’s office of emergency management and the Southern Area Incident Command team to coordinate and communicate our response and power restoration activities. Because we worked closely with the command structure, we were able to enter the area while the fires were still burning to assess damage to power lines, make the area safe and begin restoring power.
We initially thought it would take a month to fully restore power, but we completed the job in two and a half weeks. That happened because we had an effective plan, access to materials and more than 500 dedicated employees and contractors who worked 12- to 16-hour shifts every day to make the area safe, clear trees and debris and get the power back on. We accomplished this with no drop in the level of service for our members in the other 13 counties we serve.
During the fires Bluebonnet kept the public informed through news releases on our website and hundreds of posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages. It was the first time we used social media to provide real-time information during an emergency. We received very positive feedback. For more information on our fire response, our power restoration maps and what we’re doing in the aftermath, go to www.bluebonnetelectric.coop, or check our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Nearly six weeks after the fires, Bastrop County residents are putting their lives back together and beginning to rebuild homes and businesses. Some things will never be the same, but a new normal is settling in. We will get back to adding new content to this blog, so check it often and join the conversation. We want to know what you’re thinking, what’s important to you and what you want to read about.