Texas fire officials say wildfires could happen anytime, anywhere

Tuesday night’s destructive grass fire, turned apartment complex fire in Cedar Park demonstrated the sheer danger and unpredictability of the current wildfire season in Central Texas.

"The one takeaway is just how quickly, you know, a situation like that can evolve. You know, really, it doesn't take a large fire in the wildland urban interface to cause massive loss," said Walter Flocke of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The Parmer Lane Fire sparked the same day the Forest Service increased its Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 4, largely because of the dry conditions.

"Basically it means that we're ramping into really the thick of fire season now. We’re seeing an increased number of requests, and we're seeing from those requests an increased number of fires that are harder to control," said Flocke.

In just the past week, the Powder Keg Pine Fire scorched nearly 120 acres in Bastrop County, the Oak Grove fire near San Marcos burned 400 acres—destroying a home and other structures over the weekend—and in Kyle 50 homes were evacuated Tuesday after being threatened by a wildfire.

"Oftentimes, the more rural areas will start sparking fires before we do. So it's a real cue that as these areas around us start burning, that we should anticipate that the fires will be moving into our area," said Lt. Steve Gibbon of the Austin Fire Department’s Wildfire Division.


AFD’s Wildfire Division has been on scene assisting at many of these recent fires, including the one in Cedar Park.

"We train in a way, and we develop policies where we can assist our partners and other communities when they're experiencing wildfires, because we're going to need help some day, and we're going to ask them to show up for us," said Wildfire Mitigation Officer Justice Jones with the Austin Fire Department.

The city of Austin has seen its share of brush fires: one sparked in a homeless camp off Bluff Springs Road Friday, a grass fire along the railroad tracks downtown the same day, and then on Saturday a brush fire along Southwest Parkway was likely sparked by dragging chains.

"It's really important that people obey the burn bans and are mindful that, you know, just chains from the back of a truck can cause a wildfire, a cigarette," said Austin’s District 10 Council Member Alison Alter.

Alter says wildfires are most likely to strike around the perimeter of the city.

"All of those areas lie in what's called the wildland urban interface," said Alter. "The risks here are very real. We have been really lucky."

But the fire in Cedar Park showed just how quickly that luck can run out, and why being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice can be lifesaving.

"Particularly if you live in a high risk area, I would say having a good evacuation plan and having a "go bag" ready is essential after what we saw yesterday," said Flocke.

To learn more about your wildfire risk, click here.

For resources on preparing for a wildfire in the city of Austin, click here.