Austin Fire Dept.

Austin
7:16 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Justice Department Announces Settlement With Austin Over Firefighter Discrimination Claims

Credit Callie Hernandez for KUT

The City of Austin and the U.S. Justice Department have agreed to a settlement in a complaint over hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department (AFD).

The settlement follows an investigation finding that the AFD selection process had the effect of unfairly discriminating against African-American and Hispanic applicants.

Under the agreement, which still needs approval by a federal court, the Austin Fire Department would change its hiring process to bring it in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII forbids the use of employment practices such as written tests resulting in disparate impact against any group, based on factors like race or national origin. 

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Austin
4:32 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

PHOTOS: Disaster Response Drill at Austin-Bergstrom Airport

Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT News

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport held a full-scale disaster response exercise on its airfield today, allowing first responders to practice their skills using an actual airplane.

The drill involved aircraft, firefighters, EMS responders, medical service vehicles and more. Several volunteers played the role of plane crash victims, complete with simulated injuries. Responders even tagged volunteers' bodies via a triage system, ranking them by the medical attention required.

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Austin Fire Dept.
8:47 am
Wed February 26, 2014

City, Firefighters Union Headed for Mediation in Hiring Dispute

Austin firefighters respond to a fire at the Dobie Mall in this archival photo. Mediation between the firefighters' union and the Dept. of Justice – focusing on minority hiring issues – is set to begin soon.
Credit flickr.com/musingminds

This article is written by KUT's City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Austin Firefighters Association (AFA) – the union for City of Austin’s firefighters – and city management are headed to federal mediation over lingering accusations of hiring discrimination. Asked how long the mediation process might take AFA head Bob Nicks Tuesday declined to speculate.

Also, at Tuesday’s work session Council Member Mike Martinez, former head of the firefighters union, announced from the dais that city staff had requested a week’s postponement for council ratification of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Austin
5:57 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Austin 911 System Back Up After Disruption (Update)

Phone calls to 911 made from Austin were redirected to Round Rock, Georgetown and Pflugerville.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update: The City of Austin is looking into what caused its 911 system to stop working yesterday.

The system is running as normal today.

Original Story (Dec. 16, 6:14 p.m.): Austin's 911 emergency call functions were disrupted Monday afternoon, leading to some longer wait times for callers.

The city activated its Emergency Operations Center to manage the outage. The Austin Police Department put more officers on the streets to increase visibility and accessibility.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the city has been getting help from agencies in surrounding communities.

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Science
7:55 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Sounding Out a Better Beacon for Firefighters in Danger

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewhitewolves/

Every year in the U.S., dozens of firefighters are killed in the line of duty. But there are hundreds more close calls, where a firefighter needs to be rescued after becoming injured or otherwise incapacitated. Virtually all firefighters, both volunteer and professional, rely on a simple device designed to alert their fellow firefighters when they need help.

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Environment
9:59 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Seeing Smoke? The Reason Behind Austin's Prescribed Burns

The Austin Fire Department now has a specific division that focuses on wildfires and prescribed burns.
flickr.com/kaanah

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.

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Austin
7:50 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Watch: Austin Firefighter in Amy Poehler's Web Show, 'Smart Girls'

"Smart girls become firefighters," Xochitl Hernandez, AFD's firefighter said in the webshow.
YouTube, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Operation Nice

Actor Amy Poehler of "Saturday Night Live" and "Parks and Recreation" fame, has a mission: encouraging women to be themselves. And to stay true to that person whether it be at a party, being a rock star or competing in a triathlon. 

Austin Fire Department firefighter, Xochitl Hernandez has joined a list of females to be featured in Poehler's video series: Smart Girls Operation Nice.

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Austin
1:02 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

Fireworks Likely to Blame for 57 Travis County Fires

Call fireworks complaints in to 311, not 911.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Austin Fire Department says there were 57 grass and brush fires in Travis County over the Fourth of July, 30 of those fires were within the Austin city limits.

The fire department believes many of the fires were caused by fireworks.

"Certainly these smaller grass fires can extend to homes and businesses. And you know there is always the chance of people getting injured using the fireworks," AFD Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said.

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Austin
4:59 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Travis Co. Stares Down Wildfire Season with New Plan, Chopper

Travis County is taking renewed efforts to prevent wildfires like those in Bastrop in 2011.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Central Texas isn’t taking any chances when it comes to wildfires.

Today, Travis County unveiled a new STAR Flight helicopter designed to fight wildfires, and tomorrow the city and the county are teaming up for a series of public meetings for their “Community Wildfire Protection Plan.”

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Austin
6:53 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Justice Department Investigates Austin Fire Dept. Hiring Practices

Flickr/C. Young Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaanah/1510572663/

The Austin Fire Department’s hiring practices are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. In a letter to the city, the DOJ says the fire department may be discriminating against Hispanics and African Americans. The letter does not say what prompted the investigation.

A statement from Assistant City Manager Mike McDonald says the fire department is committed to equal opportunity and diversity. 

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Austin
7:51 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Council Takes Steps for Wildfire Protection

The Austin City Council will acquire wildfire fighting equipment through a federal program.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Every day without measurable rain worsens the risk of wildfire here in Central Texas. And the Austin Fire Department is stepping up its efforts to be ready.

The Austin City Council Thursday approved a five-year agreement with the Texas A&M Forest Service to get more and better firefighting gear, at a lower cost, through the National Wildfire Program.

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Austin
1:58 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

Dillo Dirt Fire: It Smolders, Smells, and Stifles Sales

The (in)famous Dillo Dirt mud at Austin City Limits Fest 2009. Officials are unsure how much a plant fire could affect fertilizer production.
flickr.com/plutor

Austin firefighters are still battling compost fires at a waste processing plant near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The fire burned at least an acre of Dillo Dirt at the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant, which will impact sales to over 70 Austin area vendors.

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austin
7:34 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Fire Marshal Cracks Down on Code Violations

Six buildings in North Austin were issued violations this week
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The Travis County Fire Marshal is cracking down on buildings that violate the fire code. Last week the Fire Marshal’s office issued twelve violation notices for six buildings in North Austin. Each structure had been built without a permit and occupied prior to approval.

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New Year's Eve
2:35 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Austin's Fireworks Ban Continues - But Don't Call 911

New Year's Eve Fireworks over the ever-changing Austin skyline. Firefighters urge Austinites to leave the light shows to the professionals.
flickr.com/jimnix

If you see, smell or hear fireworks this New Year’s Eve, don’t dial 911. Call 311.

The Austin Fire Department has asked Austin residents to keep the emergency lines free off all firework complaints and to use the city’s 311 service instead.

In light of the ongoing drought, the Fire Department is also reminding citizens that fireworks remain illegal in Austin city limits, and their sale has been banned in Travis County. The fine for possession of fireworks in Austin can be up to $500.

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Terrorism
2:17 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

Photos: Urban Shield, Austin’s Terrorism Preparedness Exercise

Austin Fire Department repsonders rescue a "victim" as a part of terrorism-response exercise Urban Shield.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Today, Austin began the first exercises of Urban Shield, a full-scale regional preparedness training.

Over the next forty hours, Central Texas public safety agencies will assess the region's ability to successfully respond to and manage multiple terrorist events and emergencies throughout Travis, Hays and Williamson Counties. It’s a massive event with over a dozen scenarios; earlier this month, the City of Austin was looking for 1,000 volunteer “victims” to take part in the demonstrations.

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Austin
5:07 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

A Big Mess: Cleaning Up After This Morning's Fuel Spill

Austin Fire Department Crews are specially trained to respond to hazardous materials situations.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The frontage road of Interstate 35 between FM 1327 and Slaughter Lane is expected to be closed for much of the day after a fuel spill this morning.

For much of the morning, all northbound lanes of the highway were also closed in the area — causing major traffic delays.

The Austin Fire Department says an estimated 700 gallons of fuel spilled on the roadway when an 18-wheeler overturned, creating a need for careful cleanup that shut the highway through morning rush hour.

But AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck says, in years past, the closures would have been even longer because the department would have had to wait for the trucking company to send a cleanup team.

“The Austin Fire Department is one of the few teams that has the equipment and the expertise to do this," Buck says. "A decade ago, we would have had to wait six to eight hours before the operation even started, so we would be talking about sometime this evening before we got the roads open."

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Austin
3:45 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Photos: Austin Firefighters Commemorate 9/11 With Memorial Stair Climb

A firefighter makes his way down the Austin Fire Department's Pleasant Valley training tower.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

On the 11th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Austin firefighters took part in a memorial stair climb to honor the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. During the service at the Austin Fire Department’s Pleasant Valley training tower, 45 firefighters scaled the training tower's stairs nine times, roughly equaling the height of the World Trade Center.

"You know every one of those guys that died that day, they were just going to work that morning,” said Eric Novaez, an AFD firefighter who participated in today's service. “They had no idea what they were getting into, and I think that's the same with any firefighter who goes to work. You never know what the day's got in store for you so it's definitely worth remembering."

The climb was completed in silence to remember those firefighters who did not make it back out of the twin towers. Participants wore full gear, including air packs, hose bundles, and several silver dog tags, one for each of the 343. “All of us knew folks who went up there,” said Battalion Chief Randell Nations. “9/11 changed our fire service forever.”

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Public Safety
3:36 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

What Do Dog Bites, Wildfires, and 12th & Chicon Have in Common?

Fire resources, neighborhood patrols, and dog bites will be discussed at the Public Safety Commission.
KUT News

City of Austin officials will address all these titular topics and more at a jam-packed meeting of the Public Safety Commission this afternoon, the group that makes safety-related recommendations to the City Council.

Following a 15-minute allotment for public comment, the members of the commission will hear from speakers on several topics. Speakers and their topics include:

  • Austin Fire Department Chief of Staff Harry Evans and Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks, on wildfire risk.
  • Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Patrick Ockletree, on neighborhood enforcement issues in the 12th and Chicon area.
  • APD Assistant Chief Rail Munguia, on neighborhood enforcement issues in the downtown area.
  • A representative from APD, on Travis County Animal Services' report on "dog bites in relation to public safety."

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AM Update 7/26/12
8:25 am
Thu July 26, 2012

AM Update: Fire Dept. Hiring Spree, Unlawful Immigration Services, Juvenile Transfers Continue

A new grant will allow AFD to hire dozens of firefighters.
KUT News

AFD Gets Money to Hire More Firefighters

The Austin Fire Department is getting more than $5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire 36 firefighters.

The FEMA grant will help AFD staff four people on every engine – that’s the standard set by the National Fire Protection Agency.

The money will cover the salaries of the firefighters for the first two years. AFD will take over the cost in year three.

Austin Organization Charged With Providing Unlawful Services

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged an Austin group with providing unlawful immigration services and defrauding its clients.

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Austin
1:13 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

AFD Emphasizes Safety After Deadly House Fires

Austin fire crews responded to three dangerous house fires yesterday.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The Austin Fire Department responded to two deadly house fires and a third that injured a person yesterday.

Fire Department Spokesperson Michelle DeCrane says that the tragedies might have been prevented if the homes had smoke detectors.

"The most important thing is everybody needs to have working smoke alarm – I cannot overemphasize how important that is," DeCrane says. "It is the cheapest life insurance money can buy, and it can buy you invaluable time to get out of your home in the event of a fire.”

If you do not have smoke alarms or can’t afford to buy them, the Austin Fire Department has a program to help you out. Click here or call 974-0299 for more information.

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