Williamson County plans ahead for wildfire season

This week’s rain is welcome in Central Texas, but it’s a double-edged sword.

"Then that'll segue into, now we'll have a lot of growth," said Williamson County Fire Marshal Hank Jones. "And then come summer time, that's when we'll start seeing some of the effects of the growth." 

Vegetation growth equals future fuel. There’s also another type of growth going on. Williamson County's booming population growth presents new challenges for first responders.

"The fire service is mostly worried about the WUI, that's the Wildland Urban Interface," said Martin Ritchey, Homeland Security director with CAPCOG. "As Williamson County has been rapidly growing and expanding, you have neighborhoods and subdivisions popping up all over what was a rural area at one time. Therefore, you have this vegetation that is really the conduit for fire into communities."

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, this summer season’s outlook is normal, which means wildfires are likely.

Past fires can serve as a learning opportunity for those on the frontlines.

"Last year, with the big Cedar Park fire, we were able to start solidifying a process to divide the county up, and we did it by geographical division of Highway 29 and I- 35, splitting it into four strike teams basically," said Jones.

However, being proactive is what's key.


"We have uncontrolled growth of juniper aka cedar trees. That is a big fuel source in our area," said Clay Shell, assistant fire chief for the Georgetown Fire Dept. "And so our long-term goal is to, we're working on a program now to be able to help and go out and help property owners of large properties who want to mitigate some of that along their property line."

Homeowners have a responsibility, too.

"We know that the majority of homes burn down in wildfires due to embers. So the little pieces of burning material fly ahead of a fire and find these little nooks and crannies around the home," said Kari Hines, Firewise Coordinator with the Texas A&M Forest Service. "Anywhere that leaves gather around a house, really is that same place that embers can gather, as well as any openings into your house."

For more preparedness tips, check out the Ready, Set, Go! program here.

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