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Jerry Courson fire


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I just received the bad news that Jerry Courson (BCA Board member) house, workshop, and cars were destroyed by a large wildfire in Bastrop Co Texas. Not sure what amount of coverage the fire is getting around the country, but needless to say it is covered here. At noon, the local news indicated the fire was 16 miles long, over 400 homes have been destroyed and it is not under control.

We are having gust to 40 mph and that is supposed to last until sundown.

There are other fires in the area but the Bastrop fire is the major one at this time.

Below is the message I from Eddie Masters (Alamo Chapter member)

I HAVE JUST TALKED TO JIM GEORGE AND JERRY COURSEN. THE FIRE THAT HAS RAGED IN THE BASTROP AREA CONSUMED JERRY'S HOME AND BUILDINGS. JERRY WAS NOT HOME AT THE TIME AND WAS NOT ABLE TO GET THERE WHEN HE LEFT THE DEER LEASE AND HEARD ABOUT THE FIRE. HE AND TRACY ARE GOING TO TRY TO GET THERE LATER TODAY OR TONIGHT. APPARENTLY THE FIRE IS STILL RAGING COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. HE HAD TWO OF HIS CARS IN BODY SHOPS AND ARE THE ONLY ONES LEFT. HE HAD JUST PURCHASED A NEW PICKUP BUT WAS WITH HIS DEER LEASE FRIEND IN HIS PICKUP, SO JERRY FEELS HIS NEW PICKUP IS GONE ALSO. PLEASE KEEP JERRY AND TRACY IN YOUR PRAYERS. WILL TRY TO KEEP YOU UPDATED WHEN JERRY IS FINALLY ABLE TO GET TO HIS HOME. EDDIE

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I just got off the phone (6PM) with Jerry and he told me his home and car building are in the area affected by the fire, BUT a neighbor’s son checked around noon and as of then Jerry house and building were not damaged, but the fire has intensified since then. Jerry’s says no one really knows what is going on and he cannot get anywhere near, so they just have to wait and see. He said it is quite bad and looks like Armageddon. So keep him in his thoughts.

Jerry, will update me when he knows more.

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We had some friends over last night who had a mandatory evacuation in their subdivision near Lake Travis. I heard about Jerry in Bastrop earlier today, and I saw that the ranch where I used to work was less than two miles from a third wildfire. They are all separate fires twenty miles from each other.

It's a mess.

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Jerry, if you are on-line, please know we are grateful neither you, nor your family has been hurt, and for all in Texas, we send thoughts and prayers your way. We hope everyone is safe and able to avoid major losses. The weather in this Country sure seems freaky the last two years.

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OK Buick People: This is the 20 year (Oct 1991) anniversary of the Oakland firestorm. Many people lost their lives, over 3000 beautiful homes were burned to the ground as well as thousands more damaged. There were burnt cars with insurance company markings in spray paint on the streets everywhere waiting to be picked up and of course an enormous amount of collector cars were destroyed. It was a dark scary day, one which I as well as countless others will never forget.

As a result of this devastation I have made it a point to keep all the grass well trimmed and have a fire break around the perimeter of my house......and even then I don't know how much I have done because if a firestorm comes it could be way bigger than me or all my efforts. The cars are replaceable where people are not. I hope this guy dodges that bullet. Mitch

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At our monthly retiree breakfast, someone ask, " if there was a knock on the door and you were told you had 10 minutes to evacuate, what would you take?"

It is a good question to think about and maybe even do some advanced planning.

It could be fire, flood, or maybe a severe storm.

One person said, pull the cables on the computer and take it with you. Since many of us have photos, financial information, contact information, etc on our computer that may be one of the items that could be insturemantal in getting things back to normal should you have a loss.

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The local TV carries extra coverage and the available details are poor. Until the wind stopped on Monday night, there was almost nothing. Of course they evacuated everyone in the path and now looking like a blast site, officials can locate a street or road but the number identification on the house is almost always lost.

In one development, a policeman that is there for security is sending house addresses to his wife of houses that are ok (the house or mail box has the address) so by a process of elimination, they are getting some information out.

If Jerry's house survived it will be outstanding, but it is in the middle of the mess.

There are some map sites that have satilite pictures. If you want to try, his house if off Texas HWY 71 (that runs from Austin SW to I-10 {roughly exit 695}) South of Bastrop, there is a community of Alum Creek, that is as close as I can get you

If I could find a map that would give coordinates, I could post those.

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To all Texans, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. We pray that the winds sill subside, there will be rain and relief will come soon. I use to travel through some of these areas of Texas in my emu and goat trading days. There's a lot of livestock in these areas that must also be in the paths of these fires.

and btw, my family and I spent about an hour in our basement Sunday during a tornado warning. I had grabbed the computer, a few choice pictures and put in a garbage bag and brought down with us. Got laughed at for also bringing bed pillows to wrap our heads in but I didn't care. Hell I was sceeared.

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
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OK Buick People: I have taken a special interest in this thread because I personally witnessed the devastation of the 1991 Oakland firestorm and those memories serve me as a reminder of how powerful this whole thing was. A Mr. John Chapman lost 175 cars in the firestorm. Yes, that hurts. His response seemed to be, "oh well".

Several things here.......

He's alive and physically uninjured

When a firestorm hits you just leave now. Forget about your loved one's pictures. Despite what the media portrays or people come up with in these threads we are ABSOLUTELY POWERLESS against these forces of nature. I personally know of several people who lost their lives because of just such a thing.

Take the trouble to make a fire break around your property and ask your neighbors to participate. It's something a resident of this terrain needs to deal with and to make matters worse it needs to be dealt with all year round. It's no different than earthquake hurricane or tornado safety measures, so...................

Perhaps we need to discuss how (if at all possible) can we keep our lives and our property safe. Mitch

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Latest good news from Jerry

I just called On Star. I had them blow my truck horn and flash the lights for 30 seconds. The truck was able to perform these functions. This is not to say the truck is not damaged, but it is not distroyed.

This would be his 2011 GM truck (don't remember if it is a Chevy or GMC) he also does not say where it was parked but his workshop is metal and if the truck was not inside, he has a roof extension on one end over a pad with room of two vehicles.

Maybe in the next week we will see some pictures. This fire is only 30% contained per the new this am. There was an arial picture of the area of Jerry's house and the amazing thing is the highway just south of Jerry's place is 4 lanes with a center divider and the fire had no problem getting over that highway. It even jumped the Colorado (Texas) river.

Today they are starting air drops of fire retardant chemicals from a special equipped DC-10

It has been at the airport for two days but the pilots and support equipment did not arrive until late yesterday.

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Latest news I heard was 1,400 homes destroyed and 36,000 acres burned. It is the largest recorded wild fire in Texas history and still going. We can smell it and see a smoke haze 200 miles away.

To hyjack the subject, how about all the flooding in the Pennsylvania area? I know there are a few people on this forum from that area. Everything ok with you?

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Sharon and I would like to say, that if we were in our new home in Bulverde that has about an acre and a half we would gladly open it up to any BCA member or for that fact any family in the fire zone to bring their Buicks, tents, motorhomes to stay. But unfortunally we do not close until the middle of October. Hopefully the rains will kick in before then, if not it will still be open.

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The weather folks are saying that this will be a multi year drought and that we may not see rain this winter. If that be the case, its going to be miserable around here.

Our county has banned all outdoor cooking including charcoal and gas grills. You cant weld because of the sparks and forget about burning brush.

There are 26 seperate fires including the one by Austin and a big one by Houston.

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Attached is a note from Jerry with a summary of the events.

Thanks to everyone for the concerns expressed. I am really fine throughout this entire experience. Dan Buckley, Jerry Tuttle, and I left Sunday morning to spend a day at the deer lease, doing what guys do at deer leases – filling feeders, smoking cigars, etc. I first found out about the fires when we left the ranch and reached Lampasas. I had a message from Tracy and a voice message from my neighbor. When I talked with my neighbor, I learned the fires had passed by our area, mostly on the other side of Highway 71. I had several conversations with Tracy as Dan and I headed for Smithville. Somewhere during the ride from Lampasas, I made up my mind that the house and shop would be consumed by fire. In my mind, I reconciled this, and thought of the future. I have no real emotional ties to the house, since I just purchased it two years ago. Tracy and I planned to use it as a weekend place after our wedding. During the last several months/years it has just been a place to sleep when Tracy and I are not together. I’ve always liked old cars, and there is some emotion between me and old cars. But, I am well insured, and a man just does not need 10 old cars. I can make do with one or two. With these thoughts in my mind, Dan and I reached the roadblocks on Highway 71 and were turned back.

Monday morning, I talked with my neighbor. He had stayed in his house until midnight. The wind had shifted and the fire was returning. He said that if anything survived it would be a miracle. So, my thoughts from the evening before were reinforced. I would use insurance proceeds to pay off the mortgage and purchase a few things. Tracy and I are starting a new life, and we had planned our future with the house and shop, but with a few adjustments our life’s course would not have major alterations. It is strange – I did not miss the house, the cars, the guns, and most material things. I did want my computer, my briefcase, and a few things from my mother. Again, there was no emotion and I was not sad. Life goes on, and I looked at things one day at a time and one event at a time. My friend Danny Buckley is much more driven. He was busy searching out information and ways to get into the area. I was registering as homeless in case the officials tried to match addresses with people. I did maintain contact with my neighbor. His son-in-law had been in the area as part of his duties with the water coop. He confirmed that all structures were gone except my neighbor’s garage. Later the same day, my neighbor asked his son-in-law to drive down to my place (normally, you cannot see other houses from my property). This time he reported the house and shop as “intact and standing.” Of course, I had no idea what this means. Could the walls be standing and the interior gutted? Could everything be normal? At this point, I still had no hope or expectations.

The fires continued to rage out of control. Tracy and I visited the Bastrop area on Monday and I returned on Tuesday or Wednesday (I’ve lost track of days). The best way to explain the situation is angry. The smoke was thick and seem to be boiling. During this time there was no way past the road blocks – for good reason. The fire was jumping the road and revisiting previously burned areas. Trees at this point were burning from the bottom. The roots were on fire, and of course, trees were falling.

On Thursday, a new day dawned, and things changed. A friend of a friend who has an official capacity was able to get to my house. Using the hidden key, he went in. I talked to him while he was standing in the undamaged house. He grabbed my computer, briefcase, and watch. He closed the blinds and left. After this I started thinking in terms of the house surviving. Eddie Harrison and I went to Bastrop to meet the friend of a friend to get my computer. Suddenly, an opportunity presented itself that would take me (without Eddie) to the area. Once we passed the road blocks we entered into a different world. I’ve never been to a war zone, but what I was seeing looks like pictures you see of soldiers walking through German cities during World War II. I have been through hurricanes, and I was in New Orleans shortly after Katrina. This was nothing like a storm – it was nothing like I had ever seen before. We made our way to my property and I was dropped off in the drive in front of the house. My house and shop are standing. Inside my shop are eight old cars, and my new truck was in the carport attached to the shop – all untouched. My flag pole is untouched, and old glory was waving with the Florida flag. Everything else is burned, and small “hot spots” were still active around the property. Trees fell while I was there, and other trees are still burning. When I say everything – I mean trees, out buildings, fences, bushes, grass – EVERYTHING. For about 45 minutes, I just walked around. The house had been surrounded by 5 acres of pine trees and natural underbrush. Now I can see a neighbor I never met about 100 yards away – his house is gone. I can see a fence that I never knew was there. Inside, the house was just as Danny and I left it Sunday morning. Outside looks like a total loss. The storage building just across from my shop is completely gone from a very hot fire – lawn mowers, weed eaters, chain saws, gas, propane tanks all gone. This was just across the drive way from my shop full of old cars and tools.

I cannot describe the feeling. The fire burned to the edge of the house and shop and stopped. The front yard was set off with a border of rocks. The underbrush and trees are gone, and the fire stopped at the rocks. I am not a person that talks about religion, but I had to ask, “Why me?” Why did my house remain untouched? This is a house to which I am not emotionally attached. Why not burn my place and leave the house just outside my gate? The house outside the gate is a home that raised kids and is full of memories. Why me? You cannot see this and walk around without believing in a higher being. I will carry these feelings the rest of my life. I am not feeling guilty because my house survived and others lost everything. But, I am thinking there’s things I should be doing for others.

The next concern is the possibility of trees falling and burning the house, and of course, looters are a big concern. My house is an excellent target since nothing else is standing in the area. So, I loaded the truck with things looters would take – mainly guns, and stuff I did not want burned – passport, birth certificate, Mother’s quilt. As I was finishing loading, I heard a cat’s meow. I could not find a cat, so I left food outside and finished loading. I drove to Tracy’s house in Cedar Park – an hour’s drive. I was driving at speeds up to at least 80 MPH. I backed the truck into the drive, and when I got out, I heard a cat’s meow. This time I crawled under the truck and found a cat between the cab and the bed sitting on the truck frame. This cat had survived the fire. His whiskers are burned away and his feet are burned. He also survived a wild ride under the truck. What else could I do? Jerry Tuttle and I carried Sparky to the vet and ordered royal treatment. Sparky is a yellow-orange tabby who looks like the cat I lost in a divorce. He is winning friends at the vet’s, and he seems happy to be around people. I visited him on Friday.

Tracy and I returned to the area today (Saturday) and obtained passes for the cars that can be used when the area is reopened. We were able to drive down Highway 71, but state troopers guard every cross road protecting us from looters. We were not able to go to the house. We are ready to start the process of insurance claims and clean ups when the time is right.

Tracy and I are ready to start a new life together. We always planned to keep the Smithville house as a weekend place and a place to keep “stuff” no woman would want in a home. The last few days we have adjusted back and forth regarding the stuff. In the near term, we plan to let the neighbor just outside the gate live in the house while they rebuild. Other than the tasks we know we face, it’s one day at a time. By the way, the shop contains a 1966 Ford Mustang. This is a wedding gift for Tracy. Her first car was a 1966 Mustang. Of course, I like all old cars even when they are Fords.

Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. Life is a ride, and we are ready for each new day.

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