Several city and county officials talked about wildfire and disaster preparation at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
A total of 30 fires have burned 2,826 acres in the 15-county KXAN viewing area, as of Aug. 13. You can find an active map here.
“It’s terrible but it’s going to get worse,” said Bob Nicks, the president of the Austin Firefighters Association. “The dirty little secret about wildland fires is that they get to a certain size, there’s nothing you can do to stop them.”
According to Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, the city ranks sixth in the nation in the number of homes at risk of wildfire. The top five cities are in California.
Because 90% of wildfires are caused by people and are preventable, Watson said the city has been “paying specific attention” to homeless encampments and taking precautionary measures in wildfire prevention through relocating people staying at encampments into shelters. According to the mayor, 70 people and 15 pets were recently relocated from an encampment in the West Bouldin Creek area to the city’s Southbridge Shelter.
Travis County Judge Andy Brown said after Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 191 counties in Texas because of an increased fire risk, the county has issued its own disaster declaration for the county and city of Austin.
Watson and Brown said the declaration makes it easier for the city and county to do certain things to help with emergency response, and it helps response happen more quickly.
Brown also said the county is identifying and preparing emergency shelters in partnership with the city in case of evacuations.
City and county officials also talked about local resources that are available for people. Those resources include the following:
- readycentraltexas.org – a digital emergency preparation hub
- wildfire-austin.hub.arcgis.com – Austin-area current wildfire conditions
- State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, or STEAR. Those with disabilities or who are medically vulnerable, need transportation assistance, or have communication barriers, are encouraged to apply.
- warncentraltexas.org – emergency notification system to residents of Central Texas
- Misting tent pilot program at Republic Square Park is still ongoing – more than 6,000 people have benefitted since it started last month.