AUSTIN (KXAN) - In spring 2011, Janice Ivy was unsure she would ever return home again. Gazing up the hill behind her house in Southwest Austin, the charred trees stood as eerie reminders of just how close she came to losing everything.
"The hilltop was nothing but black sticks," Ivy said. "There was nothing green on it."
The Pinnacle Wildfire burned through her Oak Hill neighborhood quickly. For two days, she had to stay away as firefighters fought the flames.
"I thought we were not coming home to a home," she said. "I didn't think we would ever return to a house that was standing."
Sitting in a heavily-wooded area was perhaps her home's biggest risk. The area was hurting for a prescribed burn to get rid of overgrown brush – a wildfire's primary fuel source. But the city does not have a burn manager to lead such an endeavor.
Travis County had 12 wildfires in 2011, destroying around 8,000 acres and hurting or destroying nearly a hundred homes.
"You can only take so many hits like that before you get the big one," said Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association. "We really need to stop a haphazard approach and have a coordinated, sustained effort. That's what this Wildland Division is all about."
Nicks is pushing the Austin City Council to approve funding for a Wildland Division within the Austin Fire Department. He estimates it to have a $2 million cost, which would include hiring a certified prescribed burn manager.
Such a position must come with a lengthy certification process, plus insurance. But it also provides trained expertise on controlled fires from someone who can legally burn during burn bans.
The Austin Fire Department supports the idea of a Wildland Division as a branch of the current firefighting force. Nicks' financial figures might be a bit steep for officials to accept at this time though.
"There's a lot of things it could include," said Harry Evans, AFD chief of staff. "I think we have to understand that it's a longterm problem, and there's many things we need to do to fix it. My recommendation would be to start with a base model and build from there."
As a first step, the department recently made sure all of its firefighters have wildfire training. Evans said they have asked City Council members to increase funding for more programs beyond what is suggested in the current budge proposal.
"I would love to hear more about that," said Ivy. "It sounds good, but I would love to hear more about that."
Federal, state and local authorities on Wednesday arrested 15 people and seized 70 firearms in raid on a methamphetamine operation based in Burnet County.
Former Georgetown Police Officer Stephanie Brown said her ex-boyfriend, former Round Rock Officer Eric Poteet, made up accusations against her after she broke up with him.
TxTAG’s customer call center lines are jammed as toll road violators scramble to pay up and avoid staying on a published scofflaw list.
A 13-year-old girl who told police she had been kidnapped from her school and assaulted on Monday, admitted to police she made the story up.
Recent findings have those in academic circles wondering, if educators are missing the point.
The U.S. Grand Prix race in Austin next year will be held Nov. 2 and F1 weekend will not coincide with a UT Longhorns home football game.