AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a KXAN report highlighting the impact of the Austin Fire Department’s lack of new ladder trucks, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly intends to put forward a resolution that would secure funding and staffing for two of them, the city council message board shows.
Last week, KXAN reported on an internal memo from Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker explaining that even though the new Davenport/360 loop station expected to open up this month was intended to house an extension of the department’s wildfire division, AFD doesn’t have what it needs to make that happen.
“On April 23, 2021, the Austin Fire Department (AFD) adopted a four-year plan for battalion realignment. We are unable to move forward with the original realignment plan since several of the key pieces of the plan have not come to fruition; namely the addition of two additional ladder trucks,” Baker wrote in a memo to fire department staff.
When we reached out, the department said it didn’t change the current wildfire battalion’s response, but did stall the expansion of the unit.
We took that memo to the president of the Austin Firefighters Association who told us the department hadn’t put a ladder truck into service since 1995. Meaning the ladder trucks available to respond to fires almost three decades ago are the same number of ladder trucks available to respond today.
We then took the memo to Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who last week told us she didn’t realize it had been since 1995 that a new ladder truck had been put in service. She posted on the message board Thursday night that she intended to introduce a resolution in late March or early April that would direct the interim city manager to secure funding for the purchase and staffing of two new ladder trucks.
“By adding more aerial fire trucks and staffing them properly, we can significantly enhance our community’s safety and reduce the risk of devastating fires. This investment will also help our fire department respond more quickly and effectively to emergency situations, which could save lives and prevent property damage,” Kelly wrote.
The draft resolution directs the city manager to come back to the public safety committee with an update on the procurement process no later than three months after the resolution is passed if that should be the case.
Kelly said Council Member Vanessa Fuentes had agreed to co-sponsor the item.
“The city is in critical need of an aerial fire truck to better protect its residents from potential fire hazards and major building fire events,” Kelly said in her draft resolution.