AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS break ground on a new station in the Del Valle/Moore’s Crossing area in southeast Austin Wednesday.
The station aims to improve response times to emergencies in the area between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Circuit of the Americas to keep people and property safe and to reduce insurance rates.
KXAN reported a year ago 175 homeowners were at risk or had already seen their rates rise as much as $1,000 because they live more than five miles from a fire station.
AFD says its response times to most calls in the area is between 13 and 14 minutes, considerably slower than its goal of eight minutes.
“We got a little wooded area behind us there, and you know, that’s a risk sometimes when we got the drought going on,” said Steve Segovia, who’s lived in the Stoney Ridge neighborhood for the last 15 years.
Right on the city-county line, he said the area is always filled with smoke around the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. “A lot of people that pop fireworks, they got kinfolk that come from Austin all the way down here just to pop their fireworks.”
An errant spark, he fears, could start a fire that would spread from home to home. Stoney Ridge is just on the other side of COTA from Travis County Emergency Services District (ESD) No. 11, which also serves the area. The new AFD/ATCEMS station, though, will be right at the entrance to Segovia’s neighborhood, just across Elroy Road from Popham Elementary School.
“I love that, just having somebody reassure you that you know they’re going to save your home,” he said.
“We know that area is growing, and so this allows us to plan for response times now, but also in the future,” said Wesley Hopkins, division chief for ATCEMS.
The station will have one ambulance ready to go at all times with storage for five more. “They won’t be staffed,” Hopkins said, “but we’ll be able to deploy them for any mass gatherings in the area or any kind of mass casualty incident.”
Right now, the equipment to respond to such a situation is stationed on Ed Bluestein Boulevard, so a new storage location will make it easier to respond to any situations that arise from the airport or COTA.
The new station is the first of five the agencies want to build around the city over the next several years in under-served areas to keep up with growth. The other four, Hopkins said, will be in the areas of Goodnight Ranch, Travis Country, Davenport Ranch, and Canyon Creek.
ESD No. 11, meanwhile, is planning to build a new station of its own on Kellam Road south of the Berdoll Farms neighborhood, the district’s chief, Ken Bailey, told KXAN.
Originally, the ESD wanted to share the facility — and the cost — with the city, Bailey said, since its new station is just a couple miles from the new AFD/ATCEMS site, but the city declined to do so. The city of Austin did not respond to KXAN’s requests for comment by Wednesday morning.