Council member Mackenzie Kelly speaks on Austin's public safety, fire prevention concerns

It's been a busy week for the Austin City Council. From a big announcement on personnel changes at the Austin Police Department, to major steps to address fire danger. 

District six council member Mackenzie Kelly joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

Mike Warren: We learned this week that Chiefs Chief Joseph Chacon has decided to retire from APD. Did news of this departure come as a surprise to council?

Mackenzie Kelly: Well, it was certainly a surprise to me. I mean, I found out hours before the announcement was public. But what I do know is that I spoke to the chief twice today. He's in great spirits. He is happy to looking forward to the future and ensuring that he can spend more time with family. He's leaving the department in great hands with the interim chief, Robyn Henderson. She's going to do a wonderful job carrying that torch and continuing the work that Chief Chacon did in the two years he was chief of our police department.

Mike Warren: Is his leaving going to hurt morale in an already stressed department?

Mackenzie Kelly: Well, from what I can tell and from the officers that I've spoken to. Morale is very bad at APD. It has nothing to do with the chief leaving in his departure. I believe that in the police department, especially once you have reached the point of retirement, when you earn that retirement, you are good to go. You can put in your papers, and you can go spend time with family because you dedicated your time to the city for such a long time. And Chief Chacon was with us for over 25 years. That's not a small amount of time. The officers understand that. And I know there are a lot of officers looking forward to when they can put their papers in also once they've reached that point. But that service to the community can't be underscored enough. Chief Jackson's accomplished so many great things during his time with us. 

Mike Warren: Let's talk about fire danger in Austin now. Earlier this week, the council continued a city disaster declaration. Was there any pause within the city council by declaring a disaster when we haven't had one yet?

Mackenzie Kelly: Well, so I'm the only person who sits on council currently that's a firefighter and who worked in emergency management. And so I know better, I believe, than my colleagues about what this exactly does. It is more of a preemptive measure. If you think back to when the wildfires occurred, for those of us who lived in the city of Austin back in 2011. Bastrop County complex fires spread at a football field a minute that was so fast, the conditions were so bad. When you have an emergency situation like this, unfortunately, you can't just, you know, on a whim declare a disaster and then get state resources if that's needed. And so this is a preemptive measure. It allows us to request resources and funding reimbursement in case we do have a disaster like this occur.

Mike Warren: What do citizens need to be aware of or be? Should that what should they be doing right now? 

Mackenzie Kelly: Well, they should definitely pack a go bag, so they can be prepared to leave in the event that there is an emergency situation. To do that, you can go to, and you can look up what's great to put into that go bag. You can also be a good Samaritan of the environment. Make sure that you're disposing cigarette butts properly I suppose is a good thing to suggest. You also want to make sure that if you have towing capacity on your vehicle, you're not towing chains to spark a fire inadvertently and any kind of smoking materials are put out properly. Don't barbecue unnecessarily, especially when we're under this kind of disaster declaration. Be a good Samaritan of the environment. Look out for your surroundings. Report things to 911 If you see a fire and just keep an eye out. Listen to emergency officials.