Two years after report, Austin City Council may take first action in addressing fire station shortage

A lack of fire stations has put several areas in Austin at high safety risk and increased the cost of home insurance premiums, an issue the City Council will address at its regular meeting Thursday.

A 2016 analysis showed an immediate need for fire stations in five areas that were falling substantially short of the Austin Fire Department’s goal of eight-minute response times: Travis Country, Moore’s Crossing in Del Valle, Davenport Ranch, Goodnight Ranch and Canyon Creek.

As of today, no fire stations have been built nor has the council allocated any funding toward these project areas.

On Thursday, Austin City Council will look to take its first step in addressing the public safety need by directing city staff to build two temporary fire stations—one in Del Valle, another in Travis Country—within the next six months.

In March, city staff laid out a timeline of 10 years for the construction of all five stations, with Del Valle and Travis Country at the top of the priority list. The temporary stations would act as a placeholder while construction of the permanent stations takes place.

“If it’s going to take two to three years [to build the permanent stations for the two areas], then there needs to be a contingency plan for temporary stations,” District 2 Council Member Delia Garza said at Tuesday's work session. Del Valle is in her district. Garza, a former local firefighter, has long advocated for action on the fire station shortage.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said she, too, wanted a permanent solution but hesitated to support the action because she was uncertain how it would affect the budget.

Ed Van Eenoo, the city’s deputy budget officer, mentioned several channels of potential funding mechanisms, from using the city’s credit line to the possibility of spending unused bond funds from 2006.

Tom Dodds, chief of staff at the Austin Fire Department, said through use of overtime and resource reserves, the department could provide the fire engines and staff for temporary fire stations immediately.

District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he intends to support the resolution on Thursday but said the issue was a result of poor annexation policy by the city of Austin.

Garza said she counted enough votes for the resolution to pass Thursday but urged the other council members to come on board.

“It’s a huge investment, but at a very basic level, a city should provide [adequate] public safety resources,” Garza said.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


Austin skyline
Report: Austin lost more than 129,000 jobs between February and April

As multiple sectors of Austin’s economy temporarily closed stores to customers as part of a nationwide effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, more than 100,000 Austin jobs were lost in the process.

A photo of three people cleaning a living room
New South Austin-based startup connects customers with on-demand professional services

ZuriTap connects users with service providers in a range of professions.

The deaths bring Travis County's total fatalities during the pandemic to 88. (Community Impact staff)
Three new coronavirus deaths reported in Travis County May 26

The deaths bring Travis County's total fatalities during the pandemic to 88.

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Mark Escott gives a virtual coronavirus update to the Travis County Commissioners Court, led by interim Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe. (Courtesy Travis County)
Travis County sees renewed upward trend in recent coronavirus cases, indicating a possible second surge

Weeks after Texas loosened public health restrictions, local authorities are seeing increased COVID-19 cases in Travis County.

About 50 hospitals and more than 800 patient care sites fall under the Baylor Scott & White umbrella, including this hospital in Frisco. (Courtesy Baylor Scott & White)
Baylor Scott & White Health to lay off 1,200 after reporting 'drastic drop' in visits

The layoffs represent 3% of the health system’s workforce.

Starting May 19, water parks will be able to open up to 25% capacity. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Abbott issues proclamation allowing water parks to open

Starting Friday, May 29, water parks will be allowed to open but must limit guests to 25% of their normal operating capacity.

The city of Austin is working to reopen pools, including the Brentwood Neighborhood Pool in Central Austin, in June. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
City of Austin works to reopen pools in June, cancels paid summer camps

The city of Austin could offer modified pool operations this summer begining in June.

Austin ISD staff at Pleasant Hill Elementary School distribute meals in April. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD continuing free meal distribution through summer

Austin ISD has been offering meals to students during school closures and will continue to this summer.

South Austin Beer Garden reopened May 22 with other area bars under new state guidelines regarding the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy South Austin Beer Garden)
South Austin Beer Garden has been part of the community for 1 year

The beer garden offers 60 beers on draft and a cocktails menu with both indoor and patio seating.

Project Connect, Capital Metro's public transportation expansion plan, would include three light-rail lines running through the city and underground train stations downtown. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Is now the right time to rethink transit in Austin? Local leaders respond to community questions about Project Connect

Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board of directors will decide June 10 on whether to adopt Project Connect—the plan to revamp public transportation in the area.

The flute section of the Rouse High School marching band from Leander performs in this 2017 file photo. (Courtesy Leander ISD)
Texas schools may begin hosting sports workouts, band practices June 8

The University Interscholastic League released guidelines for allowing sports workouts and marching bands to practice.

Dripping Springs grew by 3,507 people from 2010-19. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Census data: Dripping Springs grew by 159.3% from 2010-19

The cities of Austin and Sunset Valley also saw growth during that timeframe.