Environment
9:59 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Seeing Smoke? The Reason Behind Austin's Prescribed Burns

Smoke will be rising in southwest Austin today near Buda. Austin Water is performing a prescribed burn with help from the Austin and Buda Fire Departments.

The burn will cover over 600 acres of land west of Buda at the Onion Creek Management Unit. The area will burn for up to seven hours, or until around 5 p.m.

This is the second prescribed burn in the Austin area this week. On Tuesday, AFD crews conducted one in Northeast Austin at Walter E. Long Park.

Officials says that prescribed burns reduce invasive plants, provide a more affordable alternative to clearing vegetation and help with endangered species such as the Black-Capped Vireo.

Battalion Chief Thayer Smith says prescribed burns also give firefighters a great opportunity to practice wildfire mitigation skills to protect endangered homes.

“This is both an opportunity to help nature in this case, but it’s also training for the fire department for our new Wildland Division so we can move towards doing these prescribed burns in the Wildland Urban Interface and remove some of these fuels that, you know, create the dangers like they did back in 2011,” Smith said.

The Wildfire Mitigation Division is a new part of the Austin Fire Department. It was created in response to the deadly and destructive 2011 Labor Day fires in Central Texas. The division received funding last year and is now up and running.

The Austin Fire Department says before the division was created, wildfire mitigation duties were shared with "little corporate knowledge or cooperation."