The Hays County Commissioners Court received an update at Tuesday’s meeting on July 19’s botched controlled burn that consumed nearly 785 acres in the northern portion of the county.
The burn was conducted by the city of Austin as part of a water control strategy and was initially planned to include only 560 acres. An additional 224.64 acres were burned after the fire spread beyond the prescribed area near 6555 FM 967, about halfway between Buda and Dripping Springs.
Hays County had a burn ban in place, but the city of Austin was allowed to conduct its burn anyway, Hays County Fire Marshal Clint Browning said. That will no longer be the case, he said.
“If we say no burning, no burning occurs,” Browning said.
The city of Austin crews conducting the burn contacted the Buda Fire Department on the afternoon of July 19 after the fire spread beyond their control. The city of Austin sent eight brush trucks to the scene to help combat the blaze.
Hays County also incurred costs related to overtime and damage to vehicles and tires, officials said.
“We’ll be working with our counsel and the ESD board to see what kind of bill we send the city of Austin for this,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said. “They are responsible for it and we have every intention of holding them accountable for it.”
County Emergency Management Coordinator Kharley Smith said Hays County has a good working relationship with city of Austin employees and first-responders. Both parties want to fine-tune the processes regarding prescribed burns in Hays County.
“In the past, the precedent was set that it was just a notification and not permission for the city of Austin to do the prescribed burns,” she said. “In the future that is obviously changing.”
The county remains under a burn ban as of Tuesday.