Controlled Burns Are Coming Back
By Bettina Meier
Austin is not only growing in population. Invasive plants like cedar trees or the King Ranch bluestem are spreading around Austin, and over the past two years, they have grown and provided a dangerous amount of fuel for wildfires. Yesterday, the Austin Water Utility conducted its first prescribed burn in two years, a controlled burn of 560 acres on its property in Hays County, and spokesman Jason Hill says it’s only the beginning.
“We haven’t been able to do that over the past two years because of the drought conditions,” Hill said. “So this first burn in just about two years was thanks to the right weather conditions and Hays County lifting its burn ban.”
With more counties expected to lift burn bans this fall, the utility is planning more controlled fires, but it won’t reach the usual number of four to six. The Austin Firefighters Association says it appreciates the effort, but the water utility’s land only covers 5 percent of the wildfire risk zone in the Austin area.
“What we need is a holistic program that looks at not just certain jurisdictions but the entire risk map and be able to go to the most risky areas first and work down that list of priority,” said AFA President Bob Nicks.