Municipalities in the Lake Travis area boost wildfire-prevention efforts

Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns discussed wildfire risk in Lakeway during the Sept. 9 special meeting. 
Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper
Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns discussed wildfire risk in Lakeway during the Sept. 9 special meeting. Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper

Lakeway City Forester Carrie Burns discussed wildfire risk in Lakeway during the Sept. 9 special meeting. Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper

Image description
Following a summer of high temperatures and dry conditions, municipalities in the Lake Travis-Westlake area continue to allocate resources toward wildfire-prevention efforts.

On Oct. 8, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to extend a burn ban for the second time since August, this time until Nov. 6. If current humidity levels begin to drop the risk may continue, according to Chris Rea, Lake Travis Fire Rescue’s wildfire-mitigation expert.

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.
Lakeway City Council voted to allocate $350,000 to the city’s wildfire-mitigation capital fund Sept. 30, and Rea said that investment will allow for a significant amount of forestry risk reduction work. By protecting Lakeway’s homes, the city will see a huge return on their investment, he 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.
This June, West Lake Hills City Council and the Westlake Fire Department worked to update the city’s emergency evacuation plan, which had not been revised since 2008.

The goal of the updated plan was for residents to develop greater situational awareness in case of an evacuation, Anthony said, adding residents have been and will continue to be encouraged to familiarize themselves with their street’s access points and sign up for "reverse 911 calls" that would notify them in case of an emergency.

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."
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


Reports surfaced Feb. 22 of dogs falling ill after swimming in Lake Travis. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Blue-green algae toxic to animals found in Hudson Bend area of Lake Travis

Solid organic material was taken for testing from the edge of Travis Landing located on the east side of Hudson Bend. Those samples indicated the presence of algae and decaying algae containing cyanotoxin, which is fatal to dogs and other animals.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

Pet owners are advised to keep their dogs out of Lake Travis. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Lake Travis water samples show no signs of toxic algae; dog owners still urged to keep pets out of water

An initial test of water samples from Lake Travis showed no signs of cyanotoxin or blue-green algae, a bacteria that is poisonous when consumed by dogs.

H-E-B will open a new location in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Southwest Austin in August. (Rendering courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B to open in Oak Hill in Aug.; comedy club coming to The Domain and more news from February

Read business and community news from the past month from Central Texas.

Rollingwood City Council met Feb. 24 to discuss how Winter Storm Uri impacted the city's water system. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rollingwood officials evaluate wastewater contractor following historic winter storm

“We were on the cusp of making a decision as to whether or not to cut off water service to our entire city or, alternatively, overflow our lift stations and flow raw sewage into direct channels into Lady Bird Lake,” Mayor Michael Dyson said during a Feb. 24 City Council meeting.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

Photo of a snowy residential street
'Bad data is worse than no data': Austin health officials unsure how storm affected coronavirus spread

Weekly testing and hospitalization averages will not be updated by Austin Public Health until Feb. 27.