AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office is warning about high fire danger Thursday while also preparing to help surrounding counties that may see large fires.
Extreme wildfire conditions are being forecasted along and west of the Interstate 35 corridor. The Texas A&M Forest Service even went so far as to say evacuations due to fires have been “common” under the weather conditions that are expected.
“Our biggest concern is that because we have all of this dead grass that hasn’t really started to grow yet and the fact that we’ve got these high winds, any small fire that gets started could very quickly be turned into a very large fire,” Travis County wildfire mitigation officer Will Boettner said.
Grass fires have been deadlier in Texas than forest fires because of how fast they move and because people don’t take them as seriously when they see them, Boettner said. He also noted the average man runs 6-8 mph but a grass fire can move faster than 10 mph.
Preparing to help surrounding counties
The 10-county region Travis County sits in has mutual aid agreements that allow crews from Austin to help folks in surrounding counties and vice versa. Boettner said with fire danger this high, staffing those fires could still be an issue.
“No one organization, no one city, no one county has enough resources at any given moment to fight many fires at the same time,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Travis County Fire Marshall’s Office is also dealing with large events right now like the rodeo. The office is charged with ensuring the safety plan for those events is followed and no safety issues arise.
“We’re a small department, and we’re in a lot of different places at the same time,” Boettner said.
‘Don’t start a fire that you don’t want to have go all over the neighborhood’
Boettner said people need to be aware of the fire danger in their area and use common sense to avoid starting an unnecessary fire.
“If you’re planning on having a barbeque tonight, don’t do it. If you’re planning to have a little campfire, because it’s Friday night, and it’s the end of spring break, don’t do it,” Boettner urged.
The Texas A&M Forest Service is also asking the following:
- Do not burn outdoors
- Be careful of chains dragging behind trailers or trucks
- Properly dispose of cigarettes, do not throw them out the window
They also recommend you consider the following:
- Prepare multiple evacuation routes in case one is compromised by heavy smoke.
- Assemble a go-kit that can be grabbed easily
- Listen to local officials and, if necessary, evacuate early to get yourself out of harm’s way.
- If you see a wildfire, call 911.
You can use the City of Austin’s wildfire risk tool to look at risk in your area.