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Bastrop Co. Dispatcher Remembers Fires One Year Later

Updated: Tuesday, September 4 2012, 07:54 PM CDT

Heather Deason, a dispatcher for Bastrop County, began her shift the morning of September 4, 2011, at 7 a.m., one of two dispatchers inside the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office.

"Sundays are usually not normal busy days,” remembers Deason. “I had brought some homework to work on for school. I was actually reading one of my textbooks when everything happened."

Deason says the first call came around 2 p.m. that afternoon: a tree had fallen on an electric line in the back of a house, sparking a fire.

"I'll never forget, I heard one of the fire department guys on the radio,” remembers Deason. “He said, 'Get everybody out of here now!,' and he said 'Get your officers out now!' I had never heard panic like that in a firefighter's voice. It was very scary."

Deason and her co-worker called in off-duty dispatchers.

“It just blew up from there. It was complete pandemonium after that. It was constant: As soon as you hang up the phone, they're ringing again. There was no break. “

Deason says most of the calls they received were from worried relatives of Bastrop County residents.

“’I need you to go check on my family, check on my parents,’” recalls Deason, of the content of those calls. “We would have people from out of town that called and said ‘My parents live here, they're elderly, I don't know if they could get out. Could you send an officer?’ Your adrenaline's going. It was all a blur. That first day, I honestly don't remember the whole afternoon once it started.”

Deason says the magnitude of the fire didn’t hit her until the end of her shift that first night.

“I stayed until about 10 o’clock. We have no windows in here, so I didn't know what it looked like, and when I walked outside that night when I left, it was just this huge orange glow all over."

That first day, Deason had worked 15 hours.

"I couldn't sleep cause your adrenaline’s still going at that point, and by the time you do go to sleep, you get about two hours and then you have to get up and come back the next day. I was just thinking, ‘It's gonna take out this whole county. I was worried it was gonna come to my house."

Deason worked nearly two weeks straight after that first day.

"The hardest calls for me were the ones where (callers asked), 'Can you go get my dogs?' and we had to tell them, ‘No, we weren’t' going to risk our officers' lives.’"
That was heartbreaking because people would just cry. They would call and be like, 'But that's my dog, that's my baby.'"

As hard as it was to take calls like those, Deason and other 911 dispatchers put their emotions aside and focused on the task at hand.

"I don't know how you do it, you just do it. You're like a different person, almost, when you sit at the console.  You just have to basically suck it up and be calm for them because that's what we're doing. We're helping them. Once it's all over with, then you can sit down and cry."

By Adam Bennett.Bastrop Co. Dispatcher Remembers Fires One Year Later

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Central Texas Wildfires - Bastrop Map

Bastrop Anniversary Events

Tue. Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.
A Night of Hope, Hyatt Lost Pines

An evening remembering the last year and looking forward toward a bright future. For tickets and more information contact Jennifer Long, 512-461-9418 or Sponsored by Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team.

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