AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Association representing Austin’s Firefighters has filed suit against the city over alleged contracts it has with neighboring rural fire departments known as Emergency Services Districts.
The suit alleges the city made the deals to protect Austin citizens living in outlying areas of the city which go beyond the common first responder agreements known as mutual aid agreements. Those allow the city to count on additional response during major emergencies.
The suit filed in Travis County District Court Tuesday states “the city’s agreements with the ESDs and municipalities contract out normal fire protection service within Austin city limits, providing for ESD personnel to be dispatched as part of the city’s initial or primary response, and sometimes the only response.”
The suit makes no reference about when or where this kind of response has happened but claims the City of Austin is violating the Civil Service Act by using non-civil service firefighters for its primary response.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction that the city use only its firefighters within city limits. It does not specify which ESDs the city has contracts with, any cost involved or other details of those arrangements.
For context, this budget year, Austin’s Fire Department listed as part of its unmet needs $2.1 million to build a temporary fire station on Elroy Road near the Circuit of the Americas race facility. It’s within Austin city limits, but on former County land the city annexed less than two years ago. ESD 11’s nearest station is a short drive away from COTA.
At the ‘Y’ at Oak Hill near where Hwys 290 and 71 merge, AFD has one fire station on Hwy 71. Close by are two stations run by ESD 3, according to city records.
Association leaders have long talked about the need for a second AFD station for the far southwest part of Austin, where growth has been significant.
AFD Chief of Staff Harry Evans told KXAN in an email response: “The health and safety of our citizens is our foremost concern. We will review the lawsuit with our law department and continue to operate the Fire Department in the most effective manner possible to provide the best emergency service to those we are sworn to protect.”