Southeast Austin/Del Valle area finally getting Fire/EMS station

Tony Maldonado is president of the Berdoll Farms HOA. He says the community was built around the same time as the new airport.

“This made a good place in close proximity to the airport to build a new community, all the schools, the high school, the middle school and the elementary school are all within walking distance of the community,” Maldonado said.

But something’s missing. They never got a fire station. Maldonado says they’ve been waiting on one for 19 years.

“It has been very stressful to not know whether or not we would have emergency response personnel available in case somebody really needed them here quickly,” Maldonado said.

When it comes to EMS and fire response, the neighborhood even held a “safety seminar” basically teaching residents how to protect themselves.  

Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Delia Garza, a former firefighter, took the lead at City Hall on quickly building five new fire stations where they’re needed most. This one was the highest priority.

“There were families in this area whose insurance bills had gone up because you have to be within a certain distance to a fire station and if you’re not, your home insurance bills can go up,” Garza said.

Maldonado’s hard work lobbying City Hall paid off. On Wednesday afternoon, he was there as ground was broken for Fire Station 50/EMS station 36 on Elroy Road.

“We have ambulances in the area but they do have a lengthy response time and when that ambulance that responds to this area is out on a call that means an ambulance from farther away has to come in to cover this area," ATCEMS division chief Wesley Hopkins said. "So this is a very strategic location for us to have a 24 hour community ambulance here."

City leaders say in an effort to get this done quicker, construction will begin before the design phase is completed.  

“I’m excited that we’re here and it’s going to take about a year. Usually it takes longer,” Garza said.  

After this, the city is planning to start work on four other stations, including one at Travis Country. Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, is worried revenue caps will threaten funding for those.

“They’re keeping it in the budget but we are $58 million behind because of that and some other things,” Nicks said.

“The revenue caps are really going to effect not so much our capital costs which is buildings but it will effect our operations," Garza said. "So we’ll be able to definitely build a fire station, the concern is going to be will we be able to staff the fire station?”

The city says the ribbon cutting will be about a year from now.