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1 in 4 Austin homes at risk of wildfire

Austin has one of the highest risk for wildfires for a city in the nation and the fire department is working to mitigate that risk in the new city code.

The Austin Fire Department says 27 percent of homes in the city are at risk of a wildfire. That's more than 30,000 homes.

To check if your home is at risk go to texaswildfirerisk.com and use the Wild Urban Interface tool on the map of Austin.

AFD is working to mitigate the risk by getting involved in Code NEXT so they can get a seat at the table in future development.

“We are one of the highest at risk communities in the nation and we need to recognize that. And we need to include it in all of our efforts and all of our plans," AFD Captain Josh Portie said.

Portie says in the past development hasn't prioritized wildfire which has led to some of the risk. He says when involved in the process they can minimize risk by looking at how big a lot is, where the home is located on that lot and how far homes are separated.

“I’m not sure that we’ve prioritized wildfire fire management for years and years and years," Portie said.

Portie says they're also working on their own wildfire urban interface code or WUI code. However, Bob Nix with the Austin Fire Department Association says work on that code has stalled because a mapper position hasn't been refilled. He told the Austin Public Safety Commission Monday the city hasn't budgeted money for that position. So he suggests the city get that fixed immediately so they can start work again on mapping the area and developing an evacuation plan.

Portie says they do other fire mitigation work like prescribed burns and educating the public. He also says all firefighters get wildfire training.

Homeowners can also help out. Lost Cree neighborhood homeowner Ramin Ghadimi says he's spent a lot of money clearing dead wood behind his home that's next to Barton Creek.

“Dead wood has been one of our concerns and we’ve actually spent quite a bit of money removing dead tree growth," Ghadimi said.

“It’s scary because we’ve seen some of the stuff on TV where the fires can easily come close to the house to cause damage," Ghadimi said.

Ghadimi wasn't surprised to learn Austin was at a high risk for wildfires. He says local fires like a recent one off MoPac and Loop 360 and the 2015 Smithville fires have caused him concern.

“It’s close to home I mean there are risks right here," Ghadimi said.


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