Austin Fire Dept.

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.

U.S. Department of Defense

Overnight Fires Claim At Least 3 Lives

Austin firefighters responded to two deadly fires early this morning. Crews removed two children from a structure at 6226 Wagon Bend Trail in Southeast Austin. The two young boys, ages five and seven, were later pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators believe the fire started in a car and spread to the home. But AFD Spokesperson Lt. Jim Baker says the scene is still under investigation. Baker says investigators have not yet been able to enter the building.

One person was killed in a second overnight fire at 5311 Chico Street in East Austin. Fire crews were able to rescue four other people. Three of the fire victims were transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge for treatment.  A firefighter also suffered minor burns.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Austin and Travis County fire departments have responded to dozens of grass and trash fires in the last 24 hours. Crews responded to 29 small grass fires and 11 trash fires.

But, they say, for a hot, dry Fourth of July, there were actually fewer fires than they expected.

Most of the fires are still under investigation but Battalion Chief Thayer Smith says fireworks were likely involved in many.

“When you have 29 grass fires on the 4th of July and on the 3rd of July you only had two, certainly you would expect that the majority of those grass fires are obviously going to be related to fireworks in some form or fashion," said Smith.

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin fire officials believe that yesterday's boat fires on Lady Bird Lake were intentionally set.

Investigators don't know the specific cause of the fire that destroyed three boats--including a two-story party barge--and part of a dock near the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just after 2:00 on Christmas Day afternoon. They do say that someone was seen running from the area about the same time the fire broke out.

Two boats caught on fire on Lady Bird Lake Christmas Day afternoon, near the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

The first fire was reported shortly after 2:00 p.m. AFD dispatches indicate the fire grew quickly. Another boat nearby also caught fire, bringing bringing in more firefighters and limiting traffic on the bridge. The fires were reported contained just after 3:00, but firefighters were remaining on the scene to extinguish any hot spots left over. No injuries have been reported. Investigators don't know how the fires started yet.

Image courtesy

Best wishes for this Christmas Day! There was a Christmas homecoming at Fort Hood, the loss of a house in East Austin this morning, and a look into the Hill Country home of America's 36th President.

Troops Return to Fort Hood

Photo by I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Occupy Austin protestors clash with police overnight...First African American firefighters in Austin honored...and UT pounds Kansas in college football.

Overnight Arrests in Occupy Austin Demonstration

Dozens of Occupy Austin protestors were arrested early this morning, as police began enforcing a new rule limiting  how late the demonstrators can hand out food. Memos from city officials last week prohibited sleeping on the city hall mezzanine and distributing food after 10:00 p.m.

Demonstrators told the Austin American-Statesman that APD officers warned them at 9:45 last night that the food rule would be enforced. About 12:30 this morning, police tried to shut down the food distribution table. When the protestors refused, officers started making arrests.

As many as 40 were reportedly arrested, charged mainly with trespassing. The only resistance occupiers apparently gave police was passive. Police Chief Art Acevedo arrived at the city hall plaza in the pre-dawn hours. He told reporters that there were no injuries in the mass arrests.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

The Austin American-Statesman published a report online last night that Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr stayed in Colorado for a Labor Day weekend golfing trip  when the Central Texas wildfires began Sunday.  The paper reports Chief Kerr stayed in contact with her department by cell phone and email.

KUT News

Perry, UT Dean at Odds over Higher Ed Changes

Texas Governor Rick Perry is responding to a report from a dean at UT Austin.  The dean’s report criticizes proposals from an Austin-based think tank.  The governor backs those proposals which include splitting research and teaching budgets and giving state higher education funding directly to students instead of universities. 

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The City of Austin interviewed about 2,300 applicants earlier this year for jobs as Austin firefighters. Now, they’re going to have to conduct those interviews all over again. That’s after allegations that some applicants were secretly given the interview questions in advance.

Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr says she received an anonymous letter on Tuesday claiming that the quesitons and the scoring grid for AFD’s “structured oral interview” had been given in advance to certain applicants.

Kerr says she’s not sure that the allegations are true, but the letter did contain copies of the questions and the scoring grid. That raises enough concern that the City will have to retest all of the applicants.

Austin Fire Department truck
Image by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Austin Fire Association President Bob Nicks believes that Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr is setting the bar for job applicants too low in an attempt to increase diversity. Nicks says he will file a formal grievance with the city tomorrow.

Currently, four out of five firefighters are white. Women make up only five percent of the force.

The fire department has an extremely rare opportunity to change that. It has about 100 positions to fill. But not everyone agrees on how screen the candidates.

Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

Ever see flashing red and blue lights of a police cruiser on your block and wonder what they are doing over there? Here's how to find out.

The Austin Police Departments' Public Information office is open during normal business hours. You can start by calling them directly at 512-974-5017.

AFD battling car fire
Image courtesy Sheeshoo

Whether it's the coolness of being a firefighter or the higher-than-average unemployment rate in Travis County, the Austin Fire Department is being deluged with applications as it seeks to hire a record number of firefighters.