Texas Fire Evacuees Return To Find Only Ashes Like thousands of other people here whose homes were incinerated by a wildfire in Bastrop County, Texas, Linda and Roger Ward are living in a daze. The fire was not the deadliest wildfire or the largest in acreage. But in terms of destruction — 1,554 homes and counting — it is one of the worst forest fires in recent U.S. history.
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Texas Fire Evacuees Return To Find Only Ashes

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Texas Fire Evacuees Return To Find Only Ashes

Texas Fire Evacuees Return To Find Only Ashes

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And as NPR's John Burnett reports, residents are returning home to find out what's left.

JOHN BURNETT: On the afternoon of Sunday, September 4th, everything changed.

LINDA WARD: I used to sit in the living room and decide which pictures on the wall - that was my primary thing, important papers and pictures I was going to get out. And it happened so fast I didn't even have a chance to go out and do it. You know, the firemen said, evacuate right now. So we grabbed the dogs and we left.

BURNETT: Like thousands of other people here, whose material lives were incinerated, the Wards are living in a daze.

BLOCK: Basically, I think you either have an inner strength or you don't.

ROGER WARD: It's just another test. We'll get through it. Just don't know what we're going to do but we'll get through it.

BURNETT: A few miles away, Todd McClanahan surveys a landscape that looks like the post-apocalyptic desolation from Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." The rolling pine forest of the popular Bastrop State Park is gone - well, 95 percent of it is.

TODD MCCLANAHAN: It hurts.

BURNETT: Inevitably, you ask, would prescribed burns to clear out all the pine needles and fallen branches have made a difference?

MCCLANAHAN: To say: Is it preventable? On a scale of this magnitude of this size fire, I don't think so. You know, I'm hearing reports this is one of the worst wildfires in the state's history and the devastation is ranking up there in some of the top in the nation's.

BURNETT: If there's any good news in any of this - and you have to look for it - it's the incredible outpouring of help. So many donations are pouring into Bastrop from around the state that you can drive around town and see piles and piles of free stuff left in parking lots and front lawns for whoever needs it.

TIFFANY ROBERTS: Any kind of clothing in any kind of size that you need. We've got books, toys. We've got toiletries. We've got groceries. We've got dishes...

BURNETT: Tiffany and Julie Roberts' front yard looks like a giant garage sale and it's all free.

ROBERTS: We've got furniture, we've got pet items...

BURNETT: The people of the nearby city of San Marcos sent three truckloads of donations to Bastrop. But all the official shelter sites already had so much donated goods, they turned the trucks away. So they off-loaded here at the Roberts'.

ROBERTS: We're not accepting any more donations at this time, because we can't handle what we have.

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, Austin.

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