When tragedy occurs in the wildland-urban interface, it often starts dialog that moves things in the right direction. This past Labor Day, wildfires destroyed 23 homes in Steiner Ranch, Texas and prompted the community to take action.
Austin’s statesman.com reported that just days after the fires, residents began clearing brush and debris from wooded areas behind their properties. However, their mitigation activities came to an abrupt halt when they found the land was federally protected to conserve the habitat of an endangered bird species.
Community members were determined to find a solution and reached out to the Travis County Natural Resources Department, Lake Travis Fire Rescue, Travis County Precinct 2 and the City of Austin to combat Steiner Ranch’s wildfire problem. Together, they formed the Steiner Ranch Wildfire Planning Group.
The group met over a period of two months on how to mitigate areas without infringing on the bird’s habitat and eventually continued their clearing work with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Steiner Ranch held a community work day on Nov. 12 where 40 residents joined Lake Travis Fire Rescue and Travis County Natural Resources workers to pick up brush and branches in the preserve land beyond the homeowner’s backyards.
Lake Travis Fire Rescue assistant fire chief John Durham noted the goal of the work day was to attain a 30-foot defensible space that reduces the risk of wildfire spreading to the home. He said the wildfire prevention efforts in Steiner Ranch are in the “first stages” and are gaining momentum.
“Eventually what we want to do is some more of this in other areas, neighborhoods and communities adjoined to the preserve area. We hope this work can ease into more comprehensive work later on down the road.”
Review how your community can work together to safeguard homes and property from wildfire by checking out the Firewise website today.