Wildfire Risk Could Be Greater This Year
By Bettina Meier
The Austin Firefighters Association warned of a bigger wildfire threat if a package of protection measures is not included in the city’s budget.
Last year’s wildfire in Bastrop County was the costliest and most damaging wildfire in Texas History. But this year it could get even worse, AFA president Bob Nicks said at City Hall today.
“The lighter fuels, the grasses, have grown faster than normal,” Nicks said. “And now that we are in hundred-degree temperatures, they’re going to get to the level where these higher-fuel loads now are going to get very low moisture content, and they will be like a tinder box. I want you to imagine for a second a two- to four-mile flame front coming through West Austin. And now is the time to actually do something to reduce the risk. And it will take personnel. It is going to take an investment.”
Nicks is calling for an additional $2 million in the wildfire protection budget. That’s for staff and equipment to implement a comprehensive program that includes cutting trees, removing debris, and other measures to reduce the risk of wildfire spreading in the city limits.
If those measures are not put in place, more than 10,000 homes could be at risk this year, Nicks said. He said firefighters would not be able to respond quickly in the highly populated area south of the Colorado River, along Highway 360.
The City Council is expected to vote on the overall public safety budget in September.