Friday, August 10, 2012

New Fire Station and Wildfire Division Requested by Fire Officials

A new fire station and a Wildfire Division of the Austin Fire Department have been requested by the firefighter union President and other fire officials who say they are necessary to prevent and fight wildfires.  Statesman.com reports that they are requesting that those needs be added to a new bond package.

Officials say that the large amount of rain the area received this spring led to the growth of vegetation that the summer is now causing to dry out.  This increases the area's fire risk, perhaps even more than last year which saw wildfires rage across the state and locally in Steiner Ranch, Oak Hill, Bastrop and Spicewood.

The Battalion Chief of AFD proposed adding $10 million to the City of Austin bond package voters will either approve or deny in November to build a new fire station along Loop 360 south of Lake Austin.  This area is at high risk and also has a very dense population with many neighborhoods and businesses.  The station would cost roughly $1.7 million to provide staff for.

He also wants $2 million added to the 2012-2013 budget so that AFD can add a dedicated wildland division.  This division would be in charge of wildfire prevention education and efforts across the city.  They would also set controlled fires to clear vegetation that has the potential to fuel wildfires.  "When people look around and see beautiful trees, what I see is fuel", the Battalion Chief said.

However, council members and the mayor are concerned because there are a lot of needs across the city for all departments, and the mayor specifically doesn't want the bond package to be more than $385 million.  Above that, new items will have to be compensated for by the removal of other items.

AFD has already certified every Austin firefighter to the national standard of wildland fire fighting, making it the only metro department in Texas to do so.

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