New plan hopes to dimish wildfire risk in Central Texas

Firefighters from around the state battle a large wildfire on Highway 71 near Smithville, Texas, Monday, Sep. 5, 2011. A roaring wildfire raced unchecked Monday through rain-starved farm and ranchland in Texas, destroying nearly 500 homes during a rapid advance fanned in part by howling winds from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. (AP Photo/Erich Schlegel)

AUSTIN (K-XAN) — It’s been three years since devastating wildfires swept Central Texas, but fire officials believe they remain a real threat for the area. That’s why Friday morning the City of Austin and Travis County are putting a new Community Wildfire Protection Plan into place.

The new plan hopes to put every person living in Travis County on the same page about what they need to do to their home, not just areas that could be prone to wildfires. This idea was formed in 2011 when the Pinnacle fire happened in Oak Hill and then the Labor Day fires in Bastrop. These two major events led officials to spend two years working on a plan neighborhoods and communities can put into place to reduce the risk of a wildfire happening and to have a plan in the event an evacuation route is needed.

One goal with the plan is to figure out things homeowners can to do now to protect their home. For example, cleaning out rain gutters so embers from a fire, which can travel up to a mile, don’t ignite a fire.

“Keeping up your landscape so you don’t have a lot of dead shrubs up against the house and cutting limbs to keep things off the ground is a third way to look at it,” said Jim Linardos, Austin Fire Department wildfire program manager.

Friday morning Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell will sign this plan into action. The state forester will also be there, and officials with the Austin Fire Department believe that’s a sign this plan is unlike anything available to communities in Texas and could likely be used as a template for other communities.

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