July 27, 2022

 

 

An aerial image show some of the scorched land near the San Gabriel river and Liberty Hill. courtesy of Williamson County Emergency services

 

 

news photo

Smoke billows near Wilderness Cove, off CR 262/Russell Park Road at approx. 4pm, Saturday. Priscilla Jones photo

San Gabriel fire no longer spreading 

 

Wildfire triggers evacuations, weekend closure of Lake Georgetown

By NICHOLAS CICALE AND KATE THURMOND

Williamson County saw yet another wildfire over the weekend, this one near Liberty Hill. Multiple fire crews responded, including Texas A&M Forest Service, and a nearby neighborhood was asked to evacuate. 

Referred to as the San Gabriel Wildfire, the blaze was 90 percent contained as of Monday afternoon, with 451 total acres burned. No homes were damaged and no injuries reported.  

During a press conference on Monday, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said the impact could have been much greater given the proximity of the fire to major housing developments.

“The wind was blowing north. If the wind had been blowing south, there would have been millions of dollars worth of damage at Santa Rita Ranch,” he said.  

Liberty Hill Fire Marshal Michael Dickens said that crews will continue to manage the active fire over the next few days, treating “hot spots” and ensuring that the fire does not spread. Residents can expect to see smoke and firefighters present. 

Mr. Gravell urged residents to adhere to the county’s active burn ban and restrictions about hazardous activities. 

Since January 1, the county has responded to 6,919 wildfires,  he said. 

“In the past seven days, we’ve responded to 203 wildfires. It’s critically dry, the driest we’ve seen in a long time. Any spark has the potential to become a fire,” he said. 

He told residents to avoid things like driving or parking in tall grass, welding, mowing, or using industrial equipment near dry, grassy areas. 

Fire started Saturday 

Williamson County Emergency Services Saturday evening announced area agencies were fighting what was, at that time, a 100-acre wildfire near Tower Road in Liberty Hill. 

Sixty-five homes within a two-mile radius of the fire were evacuated and Santa Rita Middle School was set up as a shelter Saturday for residents being evacuated. 

Evacuees were allowed to return home by 9 p.m. Saturday, when the fire was about 25 percent contained. 

On Sunday, the City of Georgetown issued an emergency alert stating that Lake Georgetown and the trails around the lake would be closed for recreational use until further notice. The city asked residents and visitors to avoid the area. 

“I know that it’s been a great inconvenience for Lake Georgetown to be closed, but this is about protecting lives and property,” Mr. Gravell said Sunday. “We appreciate everyone’s patience while crews work diligently to put out this fire. Crews will work overnight, as well as tomorrow as needed.”

According to the county, 12 DC-10 loads of retardant and 50 loads of water had been dumped in the area. Ten aircrafts stationed nearby helped to drop water on the fire, refilling the planes from Lake Georgetown. 

Walter Flocke, the public information officer for the Texas A&M Forest Service, updated residents during the press conference Monday. He said the fire is under investigation and the cause is still unknown, but that lingering drought conditions around Texas are concerning.