FROM STAFF REPORTS
AUSTIN — A combination of high winds and lack of rain prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration for Burnet, Travis, and Williamson counties.
“These drought conditions pose an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy,” stated a media release from the governor’s office. He issued the declaration April 13.
Under the disaster declaration, officials can “suspend” any regulation or law that would “prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in responding to this disaster.” It also suspends any law that impedes a state agency’s response deemed needed to protect life or property under the drought conditions.
“I want to assure the citizens of Texas that we will do all we can to respond to this threat and ensure their safety and the protection of their property,” Abbott said in the release. “I encourage those in these counties to heed the warnings of local officials and do all they can to stay out of harm’s way. Texas is no stranger to wildfires, and will be prepared to respond if needed.”
The Burnet-Travis-Williamson county area has experienced a recent increase in wildfires.
On April 10, a brush fire broke out in the 6700 block of Singleton Bend Road off RR 1431 between Marble Falls and Jonestown. The fire eventually burned about 100 acres over a period of two days and required the assistance of several agencies to extinguish the blaze.
Several Highland Lakes fire agencies assisted Hoover’s Valley Volunteer Fire Department on April 14 in the CR 116 area during a grass fire. That same day, Jonestown, Lago Vista, and Travis County fire units worked several “spots” fires along RR 1431 just west of Jonestown.
The high winds on April 14 exasperated fire conditions with officials issuing a red flag warning and urging people to curtail any outdoor fires.
Even if a county isn’t under a burn ban, people should monitor conditions and determine if it’s a good idea to conduct any outdoor burning.
Fire officials recommend property owners, especially those with homes and structures in rural or urban wildland interface areas, to set up a “defensible space” around these buildings.
Texas A&M Forest Service offers the Firewise program, which helps communities and property owners better protect themselves and structures in case of a wildfire. Go to texasforestservice.tamu.edu for more information on the program.