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.


MOST RECENT

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and US Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta announced the lawsuit against Texas on Dec. 6. (Screenshot courtesy of Department of Justice)
U.S. Dept. of Justice lawsuit alleges Texas' redistricting maps discriminate against voters of color

The suit alleges that the Texas Legislature redrew the maps to reduce voters of colors' influence on elections.

City and Austin EMS Association representatives discussed a pay increase on the third day of negotiations (Darcy Sprague, Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin EMS Association lays out argument for $27 per hour starting pay

The increase would represent almost a 42% increase in starting salary for EMS medics.

The 6.5-mile project will be an important connection for the pedestrian, bicycle and transit networks, according to city officials. (Courtesy Austin Public Works)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: City of Austin begins design of urban trail on abandoned rail corridor; 12 things to do in and around New Braunfels this holiday season and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 6.

El Dorado Gallery will hold its grand opening in January. (Courtesy El Dorado Gallery)
Art gallery headed to Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave

The El Dorado Gallery will feature paintings, sculptures and decor by international artists.

Body20 is now open in the Hill Country Galleria. (Courtesy Giant Noise Public Relations)
New tech-focused fitness studio opens in the Hill Country Galleria

The studio offer tech-enhanced workouts using electro-muscle stimulation suits.

Santa meets with children at the city of Lakeway's previous Lights On! event. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)
Holiday events happening this weekend in Lake Travis-Westlake

The city of Lakeway and Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce are putting on two holiday events in Lake Travis-Westlake on Dec. 4.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: State could take over AISD school board if poorly-rated campus does not improve; new furniture store to open in McKinney and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 3.

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida. (Courtsey Central Texas Food Bank)
Central Texas Food Bank CEO Derrick Chubbs steps down

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida.

Police Chief Glen Koen meets with members of the community at the Lakeway Police Department meet and greet event on Dec. 2. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lakeway Police Department welcomes chief with meet and greet

Lakeway community members met with new police Chief Glen Koen on Nov. 2.

Santa Claus visits with two festival attendees at Westlake Wonderfest. (Courtesy of Westlake Chamber of Commerce)
Westlake Wonderfest holiday event coming Dec. 5

Families can head to West Lake Hills this weekend to enjoy Westlake Wonderfest for free.