One Year Later: Bastrop, Texas, Residents Recovering

By Mark Hanna | August 16, 2012

Belinda Williams was preparing to go to bed in her beautiful Texas limestone house embedded in the lost pines of Bastrop when she looked out her window and saw a huge orange glow. She woke her husband and told him they better leave.

It was Sept. 4, 2011, and a fire fueled by high winds, high temperatures and drought-like conditions erupted in the pine forests east of Bastrop. The result was more than 1,600 homes lost, two people killed and 34,000 acres charred.

Belinda and her husband, the Rev. C.A. Williams, had left behind a 7,200 square foot home that had hosted family reunions, church gatherings and Halloween parties. The fire left the home in ashes. Also consumed were a car, a truck, a barn and literally everything the Williams owned.

Williams’ house after Bastrop fire.

Before fleeing for their lives, the Williams wondered if they should grab anything before leaving. They needed to get out quickly.

“I stood in the kitchen wondering what I should take. Should I get my jewelry or my family pictures? What if we come back and it’s gone?” Belinda said. They wound up not taking anything. She said she still doesn’t know what she would have taken. They decided they had each other and they would not separate, so they left in one vehicle.

In 2009, a wildfire came within 100 yards of their house. But in her wildest dreams, Belinda never believed a fire would destroy their home. After a recent addition to her home was completed, she contemplated taking an inventory of the possessions inside their residence, but never did.

After spending the first two nights of the fire in their car, the Williams found one last room available in a Bastrop motel where they spent the next six weeks. Fortunately, the Williams had insurance which provided them additional living expenses within 48 hours of the fire. It has allowed them to rebuild where the old home once stood.

Belinda said the adjuster from her insurance company, Hochheim Prairie, was very supportive and helpful through the entire recovery process. She wrote to the company expressing her thanks in how professional her insurance adjuster had been.

Within six weeks of the devastating fire Hochheim Prairie had paid the Williams’ policy in full for both the dwelling and contents of the home as well as continuing to pay the family for the loss of use of their home while they rebuilt.

Despite the loss of towering pine trees throughout her neighborhood and thousands of acres surrounding them, Belinda said they have never thought of living anywhere else.

Rev. C.A. and Belinda Williams in front of their rebuilt Bastrop home

“Absolutely, not! We went back there and never saw it as ugly. It was beautiful. It was now cleared out and we could see all the way over the street. And we weren’t sad, we’re happy,” Belinda said. “We could have been going to a funeral.”

Hanna is the manager of public relations and membership for the Insurance Council of Texas.

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