by Claire Ricke
AUSTIN (KXAN) — "The sight of rain is good news for firefighters who say the rain will help prevent grass and brush fires.
The Austin Fire Department has been busy trying to get ahead of the threat by clearing out heavy brush. However, there’s one tool in their toolbox that isn’t ready yet. The department was tasked with making a fire map that tells you which parts of Austin are considered to have the highest risk of fire danger. The map was supposed to be finished in October, but it has yet to even be created.
Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks says AFD had a temporary worker dedicated to helping create this map, but that person left for a permanent job elsewhere. Nicks says as long as that position remains vacant, we won’t see a fire map.
“It’s great that the rain is coming today, but we are talking about a 10-year plan to mitigate risk and does anybody listening to this really think that sometime in Austin’s history we’re not going to have dry weather conditions ripe for wild land fires? Of course we will, that’s undisputed. We’ve gotta have a plan, we’ve got to have it staffed correctly to get that plan, we need to make sure that timeline is satisfied,” says Nicks.
Nicks says he spoke at the Public Safety Commission last week urging the department to make room in the budget for a person to create the map. The fire department says they are working on it themselves, but it’s not ready to share until they brief the city council on it.
CodeNEXT, the city’s Land Development Code, depends on this map. It determines how land can be used throughout the city, including what can be built, where it can be built, and how much can be built. The map will specifically look at the topography of the area, the fuels like grass and brush, flame heights, density, and where development could occur."
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