Rea and Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns are spearheading wildfire-prevention efforts within Lakeway. Together they are helping implement brush cleanups, home assessments and community outreach.
Lakeway's 89-acre Hamilton Green Belt is full of wooded areas densely packed with juniper oaks, commonly referred to as cedar, which results in a more flammable forest due to their high resin content, Rea said.
A majority of the funds will aid in the protection of the Hamilton Greenbelt, an area identified as the city’s highest priority by the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.
Other priority areas within Lakeway include North Lakeway Village, Sailfish Park, City Park, Rebel Park and the Hurst Creek Road Greenbelt.
Burns said 89% to 90% of homes near a wildfire burn because of traveling embers that find their way into residents' gutters and backyards. Consequently, wildfire mitigation requires a multifaceted approach, she said.
Shaded fuel breaks will be utilized behind the homes bordering the greenbelt—work Burns said has been ongoing for about seven years. Fuel breaks involve the removal of dead trees and ladder fuels such as branches and shrubs, creating an area of defensive space from a potential fire.
“If shaded fuel breaks were not in place you would get a lot more embers flying at the house," Rea said.
West Lake Hills officials have also made decisions beefing up the city’s wildfire-prevention efforts, and Mayor Linda Anthony pointed out residents are eligible for free brush pickup through Texas Disposal Systems on a monthly basis.
The updated evacuation plan created additional relocation and evacuation centers, including Barton Creek Square Mall, and it divided the city into separate districts based on the topography and means of ingress and egress, or enter and exit points.
Burns said while official city actions are important, it remains critical for homeowners to do work around their properties.
In order to create a safer community, Rea emphasized the need for homeowners to remove potential fuel from their properties, including dead branches and gutter debris.
“When we talk about wildfire we say it’s everybody’s fight," he said. "We have a lot of homeowners associations within a high wildfire risk area, so working not only on the city side but with privately owned properties is imperative in making a fire-adapted community."