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Tim Ristow recounts part II of his family’s story of loss and survival through the Bastrop fi res.

• • •

over Sunday’s massive wildfi re that had abruptly driven hundreds of Bastrop resi- dents from their homes. Tracy and I and our two boys, Benjamin, 8, and Matthew, 5, were among them. We had evacuated in a frantic six minutes, escaping to Tracy’s parent’s home. We’d spent much of Monday checking online sources for updates on the progress of the fi re. It had remained at zero-percent containment all that day. But by Tuesday, we were restless.


Removed from Bastrop, we felt the need to reconnect with our friends, neighbors, and the community and see if we could help out. Leaving our boys in the care of Tracy’s mom, we headed toward Bastrop. It was purely on a whim that we chose to

drive down FM 1441, the road that led in to our subdivision, Circle D, retracing our evacuation route in reverse. We hoped we might be able to see how extensive the damage was in our area. We fully expected to meet a roadblock at some point and not actually make it all the way to our home. But, at the fi rst checkpoint, authorities confi rmed we were residents and allowed us through. Nervously, we steeled ourselves for what we would see. Turning onto Pine Path, we saw the fi rst

signs of fi re damage in the trees and on the ground. T e homes we saw on the road were still standing, visibly unharmed. But as we drove further down Pine Path, the trees became scorched and blackened. Signs of ground vegetation began to thin out and ultimately disappear. Earlier, I had been trying to imagine how our neighborhood might look when we went back in, expecting roads made impassable by fallen trees. But there was none of that. T e roads were relatively clear and the homes intact. Tracy

Opposite: The blue cross with the word “Blessed,” was one of the only things in the house to survive the fi re. Top: Most of what was found was reduced to ashes or rubble. Above: Family members help with the clean-up.

wondered aloud if our house might have survived. As we got deeper into our neighborhood,

e were still in a state of shock

the scenery quickly changed. T e fi rst house we saw on our street was fl attened into a rumpled pile of metal and indeterminable debris. Every hint of green vegetation on the ground was gone. It was clear that every bush, every plant, every weed, every blade of grass had burned away. Blackened trees stood like blighted stick

sentries guarding a lifeless street. As we slowly eased down the road, we stared in horror and amazement as house after house came into view, fl attened, destroyed, reduced to rubble, each slowly appearing through a thick haze of grey ash that hung in the air like a mist and blanketed everything with a vague, ugly, dirty snow. It looked as though a bomb had been dropped on our neigh- borhood, fl attening nearly everything but the charred trees. I stared ahead, squinting hard, trying to

locate our house amidst the fog of ash. T en, I saw it.

“It’s gone,” I whispered. “What?” Tracy said. “How do you

know?” Tracy was still trying to decipher where we were on our street. T e landscape had changed so dramatically she was having a hard time getting her bearings. “I can see it,” I said somberly.

“T e

window.” Tracy squinted through the windshield

and fi nally saw the distinct octagonal outline of our front window frame, still standing amid various portions of broken brick walls, amidst a pile of rubble and debris. T e house —our home—was indeed gone.


It was no small wonder that the fi rst object we should fi nd intact upon returning to our home was a cross that proclaimed the message of Jesus, reminding us that we were indeed “blessed” to be alive.

TexasLiVE | Volume 6 Issue 1 57

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