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During September, 2011, a massive wildfire in Central Texas consumed over 30,000 acres and destroyed nearly 1,700 structures. The Bastrop Complex Wildfire was the largest wildland-urban interface fire in Texas history and the third largest nationally. Although the fire devastated most of the forested area of Bastrop State Park, firefighters saved the historic sandstone cabins and most of the facilities constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Two overlook structures, located in the path of the fire, lost their timber framed roofs and wooden shakes.

This research focused on investigating the effects of the 2011 wildfire on cultural resources of Bastrop State Park and providing recommendations for preparing historic structures for future wildfires. To accomplish our work, we made several site visits to inspect conditions, conducted interviews with Bastrop State Park firefighters, reviewed previous research on fire damage to cultural materials, carried out laboratory testing and surveyed disaster preparedness and recovery strategies used by state, federal and international organizations.

The guidelines for protecting historic structures from wildfires began with the importance of assembling a team of firefighters and historic preservation specialists. Working together, the team can establish priority areas for prescribed burns and develop strategies for improving communication during a wildfire. We also provided recommendations for creating defensible space around each historic structure by removing combustible materials such as dead and flammable vegetation, tree limbs and branches, and we suggested maintenance work to minimize damage from wildfires. In developing guidelines for preparing for future wildfires, we appreciated the importance of balancing fire prevention strategies with maintaining historical integrity of the sites. It is hoped that the lessons learned from the Bastrop State Park case study will assist historic site managers in preparing for future wildfires.


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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119