Austin Lake Hills, Barton Creek West consider program to fight wildfire threat

On May 7, residents of the Austin Lake Hills and Barton Creek West neighborhoods gathered at Austin Bible Church for a presentation on the growing National Firewise Communities Program by Will Boettner, a firefighter and Wildland Urban Interface Specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

According to Firewise.org, as of May 9, there were 895 recognized National Firewise Communities in 40 states including Lakeway, Long Canyon, River Place, Steiner Ranch, the Spicewood developments of Barton Creek Lakeside and The Reserve at Lake Travis, and West Lake Hills. Currently, Jester Estates in West Austin is working with Boettner's office on wildfire risk solutions.

In the audience, Barton Creek West resident Barbara Spannaus, who grew up in Altadena, California—the foothills of Southern California's canyonlands—listened intently. After living through numerous evacuations following the threat of wildfires, Spannaus is very familiar with the threat of wildfires. The 65-year-old lost her family home to wildfire in the early 1990's.

"We are sitting on a tinderbox," said Spannaus, noting the development's greenbelt border. "In Barton Creek West, we need to be more proactive about preventing fires and saving our homes."

Although the risk of devastating loss from wildfire cannot be totally eliminated, the National Firewise Communities program is geared to reducing that risk, Boettner said. "It used to be there was 'wildlife' and there was 'urban'. But then we wanted to nestle our homes [in the wildlife] and be greeted by a serene green world.

"It's not an 'if' we're going to have a wildfire, it's a 'when.'"

Boettner said that the "new normal" of drier, hotter summers with decreased humidity and more wind have led to an increase in the potential for wildfires over the past few years. Boettner said that the National Weather Service, is predicting Central Texas will see drier and warmer than normal conditions over the next three months resulting in a greater than normal chance for wildfires in the area.

At the May 7 event, Buddy Crain, Chief of the Ce-Bar fire department based on South Commons Ford Road off Cuernavaca Drive, said that the area's topography, with its grasslands to the east and hill country to the west, is conducive to wildfires. Crain's specific concern focused on the community's deep canyons, rocky ridges and limited access to the development.

The National Firewise Communities program attempts to balance the ecological and aesthetic needs of an area to control the risk of spreading a wildfire, Boettner said. The program advocates removing ladder fuels, or lower grasses which can spread a fire to taller vegetation, and creating fire breaks, physical barriers which provide a lack of fuel to minimize chance of fires burning beyond their borders. Additionally, Firewise provides a list of fire resistant materials for building or remodeling as well as information on how vegetation management and landscaping can reduce the risk of wildfire damage to a home.

Boettner cited the dangers of embers to homesites, recommending that homeowners keep their gutters clean to guard against such firebrands flying out of a blaze and igniting the debris. Boettner advises residents to create a 30-foot defensible barrier around their homes as increased protection against fire and embers.

One aspect of the program, "Ready, Set, Go", encourages families to develop a personal wildfire action plan. Boettner said that this plan would provide a guide as to what a family should do in the case of an approaching wildfire such as preparing important documents and necessary medication in advance, leaving doors unlocked for firefighter access, attaching garden hoses to outside spigots and leaving the lights on in the home.



MOST RECENT

Photo of the Travis County administration building and sign
Travis County hears update on process to reassess master plan for aging correctional facilities

The process comes after county commissioners opted to pause all activities of the master plan over the summer.

Rodeo stock image
Inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo ready to open gates Oct. 21 after coronavirus delay

After the inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo was postponed in 2020, county and fair officials said they are excited to kick off the agricultural celebration.

Renderings of the conceptual tower were shown depicting a roughly 100-foot tower, but the intent is to build a smaller tower. A total of $2.43 million was given as an estimated cost for a 100-foot gravity tower, but presenters said the cost would scale down with a smaller tower. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Early concept for Frisco’s Northwest Community Park includes biking tower for ‘gravity riding’; Perky Beans Cafe now open in Leander, and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 20.

Eanes ISD increases substitute pay. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)
Eanes ISD votes to increase substitute pay

The Eanes ISD board of trustees voted 5-1-1 to increase substitute pay at its Oct. 19 meeting.

The future of West Austin's Lions Municipal Golf Course depends on the outcome of a city rezoning process and its landowner, The University of Texas. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
As Austin's rezoning of UT lands continues, time could be running out for Muny course preservation

The historic golf course's future remains unclear amid a city zoning process that could ease the land's redevelopment.

Eanes ISD relaxes in-person visitation rules. (Courtesy Pexels)
Eanes ISD easing restrictions on campus activities

Eanes ISD easing restrictions in time for Veterans Day celebrations

Austin Cultural Arts Division staff provided an update on several funding opportunities for the creative sector Oct. 18. (Screenshot via city of Austin)
Austin's arts community could be in line for millions more in relief dollars this year

Additional relief for artists may be available in the coming months, while a broader review of the city's cultural funding opportunities continues.

The new venue will hold a minimum of 20,000 people, developer Craig Bryan said. (Courtesy of Craig Bryan)
More than 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheater proposed for Southwest Austin

The amphitheater would rival the Hollywood Bowl in size.

Chamber revelers at 2017 Floating Flamingo Boat Cruise. (Courtesy of Westlake Chamber of Commerce)
Westlake's annual Floating Flamingo Boat Cruise setting sail this October

The Floating Flamingo networking cruise is coming Oct. 28.

Eanes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard announced his retirement plans at an Oct. 19 meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Eanes ISD superintendent announces retirement plans 

The school district announced its goal to hire a new superintendent for the 2022-23 school year.

Want to know more about new businesses coming to the Katy area? Below you can find details on the five latest commercial projects filed in Katy. (Courtesy Canva)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Read the latest top news about restaurants, businesses and other commercial projects that are coming soon or now open

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 19.