$5M settlement reached in case against tree company for 2011 wildfire

A $5 million settlement has been reached after a tree-trimming company was accused of causing the 2011 Complex fire in Bastrop. It was the most destructive wildfire in Texas history.

Bastrop County, Bastrop ISD, Smithville ISD, and Bastrop County Emergency Services District No. 2 filed the suit in 2018 against the Asplundh Tree Expert Company for allegedly diverting crews away from a tree-trimming operation along Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative power lines.

On September 4th, 2011 drought conditions caused dry vegetation around the Bluebonnet power lines to ignite when trees fell on them.

According to The Austin-American Statesman, the government’s attorney argued the fire had three starting points. It ignited along Schwantz Ranch Road west of Texas 21, in Circle D Ranch and Tahitian Village.

The fire burned for a month destroying 34,000 acres, 1,700 homes and killed two people. The destruction cut off five years of property tax revenue for the county, school districts, and emergency services.

State Attorneys were seeking more than $20 million from Asplundh, 75% of which was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This settlement awards Bastrop County $3.38 million, the Smithville school district $350,000, the Bastrop school district $1.12 million and the emergency services district $136,000.

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape told the Statesman he wants to save the money in the county’s reserve fund, strengthening the county’s financial position to deal with future potential natural disasters.