Increased wildfire risk prompts disaster declaration in Austin-Travis County

An increased wildfire risk in Austin-Travis County has prompted a disaster declaration.

City and county leaders said they have a plan in place to ensure the community is safe and that crews can respond quickly if a fire were to start.

Ninety percent of wildfires are caused by humans and are preventable, so the focus for leaders is prevention.

"Now is the time for everyone to prepare for not what if, but when it happens, are we ready?" Austin Fire Department Chief Joel G. Baker said.

City and county leaders said they’re ready, but are encouraging residents to prepare and be ready, too.

"Austin ranks sixth in the nation in the number of homes that are at risk of wildfire," Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said.

Because of the wildfire risk, the City of Austin and Travis County have issued a disaster declaration. This comes as several wildfires have started in Travis County including one at a homeless encampment at I-35 and Stassney in South Austin.

"If you don't let people camp in these areas in an unregulated way, you take away the risk of these fires occurring in these places," Save Austin Now co-founder Matt Mackowiak said.

Mayor Watson said the city is working to put homeless people in shelters. They recently relocated about 70 people and 15 pets from the West Bouldin Creek area encampment to the Southbridge Shelter.

"I consider to be inhumane for people to be living on the street and in parks and in wooded areas in 107-degree heat. We need to provide respite in that regard," Mayor Watson said.

In Cedar Park, people lost their homes and had their lives uprooted when the Parmer Lane fire burned down an apartment building and damaged several others.


"You never think that something like that can ever happen to you," Cedar Park resident Madison Beatty said.

"Nobody wants it to happen, so what we're doing is we're asking people to take the action that we need to take to prevent something bad from happening," Mayor Watson said.

Leaders are asking residents to clean gutters, dispose of cigarettes properly, don’t park cars in the grass, have a water source when welding, and don’t drag chains.

If a wildfire were to start in Austin, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said the Travis County impact team made up of county staff members are ready to help and the Expo Center is set up with cots and water for evacuees.

Leaders are encouraging everyone to sign up for weather related alerts at