Dashcams Show Wildfires Fury

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 10:06am

Startling images of September wildfires released by Texas authorities.

Stunning new video of September's Bastrop, Texas wildfire has been released.

The first call went out at 2:24 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, September 4.

Dash-camera video shows Deputy Max Conley racing toward an area where a fire was spotted in a front yard.

Conley begins to put the fire out with an extinguisher from his patrol car.

He is successful, but another small fire starts just a few feet away.

Down the road, the video shows flames starting to cross the road Conley is standing on.

Out of the smoke, the figure of someone running and you hear from Conley for the first time.

"Be advised, I need deputies out at 1441. We've got smoke going over the road and we need to close 1441," Conley tells the dispatcher. "I need to get off this road and get off it now!" he said with a sense of urgency.

It was Labor Day weekend and a perfect storm of dry, windy conditions helped spread fires in Pflugerville and Steiner Ranch, destroying homes and businesses.

To the east, in Bastrop County, a monster fire began that would burn for more than a month and destroy more than 1,600 homes.

Two people died in those fires and thousands were left homeless.

The dashboard camera video from the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office first shows deputies responding to several neighborhoods as the fire first began.

Many of them go door to door warning people to get out of their homes immediately.

"You need to get out!" Conley said to a family who was slowly packing their vehicles with items they wanted to save in case their home was lost.

The videos show most people driving quickly away from the fires, while deputies go the other way, into the blinding smoke and flames, trying to make sure everyone is out.

Deputy Lee Ward pulls up to a home where two young children come outside to meet his patrol car.

"Come on, you need to evacuate," he tells them. "Where's your mom and dad at?"

Just after 3 p.m., Deputy Stephen Cantwell comes across a woman who cannot evacuate on her own and appears to have trouble breathing.

She is worried about her dog, so Cantwell returns to the home to rescue the dog.

In the back of the patrol car, the woman tells Cantwell she is sorry to leave her cat, but "she is half feral, so she'll know to run."

At 3:45 p.m., a dispatcher comes on the radio and tells all officers the news no one wants to hear.

"We're pretty much on our own," you hear over the radio. "There's several other thousand acre fires in all the counties around us."

By 6:30 p.m., the fire is out of control and Raymond Reyes drives through heavy smoke and flames trying to reach someone who is trapped in a vehicle.

There is an explosion several yards in front of him and debris hits his windshield.

"I can't see anything," Reyes tells the dispatcher. "I've got a lot of debris coming my way."

Evacuations continue through nightfall and deputies are using loud speakers to warn people to get out of their homes.

Mandatory evacuations are in order for most of the county.

At 11:50 p.m. Sunday, Jason Hough says over his radio what many officers and firefighters are thinking.

"Well, it's 16 miles long and four miles wide. It's pretty much everywhere."

It would be another four weeks before the fires in Bastrop County were 100 percent contained.

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