Council postpones automatic aid agreement between Travis, Williamson counties

Time is of the essence when a fire hits your home.

“We have a fire station in Jollyville that is completely contained in the city of Austin because of how we've annexed over the years but there will be a delay, there's a delay now in that fire equipment responding to issues in the city of Austin because there’s not an auto aid agreement,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan at the Austin City Council meeting Thursday.

An automatic aid agreement is when the department closest to a fire responds, regardless of jurisdiction. It was a big topic at Thursday's council meeting.

The Austin Fire Department is looking to add Williamson County to this agreement for the sake of citizens' lives. This also applies to emergency medical care. 

“Delaying this item to work out some fine details. We can have that conversation…but the longer we wait to do this the more of a negative impact we risk on the Williamson County side of the city,” said Flannigan.

“There are some areas especially in the Williamson County area where we are not making the response times within the eight minutes. We would get there with assistance of ESD’s 9 minutes and 11 seconds. Without the support of the ESD’s we are getting there within 12, 13 or 14 minutes,” said Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker at Thursday’s meeting. 

All parties may be working in good faith, but the city council postponed the item to December because there is a disagreement on standard operating procedures.

“What he started off with is we will have multiple operating systems, every jurisdiction doing what they want instead of all being on the same page like we are now. Since our efforts, he's gone away from that, we are now looking at two operating systems, one too many, but two operating systems with the goal of getting towards one,” said Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association.

Nicks says if the two counties are going to work together, there needs to be a unified method of response.

At Thursday's meeting, Chief Baker expressed his urgency to get the council to pass the item, in the interest of public safety. Ultimately all parties want what is not only best for both counties' citizens but also what's best for the safety of firefighters. 

“Citizens do not care what patch or what fire truck shows up at their home. I have compromised, and compromised and compromised,” said Baker, at Thursday’s meeting.