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From staff reports

The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office investigation of the Steiner Ranch 2011 fire determined that the blaze was most likely started by electrical lines that came into contact with one another, arced and ignited grass.

After analyzing burn patterns, witness statements and video footage and conducting site visits, the Fire Investigative Team concluded that the fire appears to be accidental in nature, caused by the combination of electric line contact, dry vegetation below the ignition source and high winds, according to the county.

“The exceptional drought, low humidity and high winds and temperature combined to create conditions that were ripe for fire ignition,” Fire Marshal Hershel Lee said in a statement. “We excluded possible ignition sources and found that the electrical lines where the fire most likely started had enough slack to slap and arc, causing molten metal to fall onto combustible grass.”

On Sept. 4, 2011, the county experienced six wildland fires, including the Steiner Ranch fire, which was reported at 3:58 p.m.

Based on investigative findings, the wildfire that spread into the Steiner Ranch subdivision started on an undeveloped residential lot between two occupied residential structures and accessed off Mansfield Drive.

The fire moved to the back of the lot at RM 620 and was carried by embers across the roadway, igniting dry vegetation and moving into the Steiner Ranch subdivision.

The fire destroyed 23 houses in Steiner Ranch and torched 162 acres in the heavily populated residential subdivision. It also destroyed 24 structures other than homes, including fences and decks.

Estimates left the total damage sustained in Steiner Ranch at $10 million.

A year after the fire, Lake Travis Fire Rescue Fire Chief Jim Linardos recalled its impact.

“Labor Day of last year, I think, changed a lot of people’s minds,” Linardos said at an open house Sept. 4. “It wasn’t a subtle reminder anywhere; it was a 2-by-4 right between the eyes. “Fire is part of our community … and most people realize that wherever they are, they are at risk.”

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