MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR: Volunteers played vital role in recent wildfires

The recent fires in Burnet County gave us a sample of what other areas of the country are going through right now. It’s a scary thing to watch rising smoke inching closer and closer to you then having to leave everything you own behind, not knowing if it will be there when you get back. Not to mention if you are here visiting our beautiful Hill Country and you don’t know anyone or know where to go or what to do. Thankfully, we have people who do know. 

An event like this reminds us what a fantastic team of first responders we have. Whether they are from the cities, the counties, the Emergency Services Districts, or are other volunteers, their response is nothing less than miraculous. They put themselves on the front line to protect lives and property. They come when needed regardless of county, city, or sometimes even state lines. They bring what is needed and put it to use.

While you hope you never have to face an event like this, it is an amazing thing to watch all these people come together for the common purpose of saving lives. Having served on the Burnet County and the city of Burnet Emergency Management Teams in the past, I know, firsthand, how much these folks put into the effort. Regardless of the type of disaster, the response is incredible.

While you might be aware of the wonderful emergency service personnel who come together in situations like this, you might not know there is another group of dedicated individuals who train for and mobilize in disasters such as this. They are the Burnet County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). During a disaster, the number and scope of incidents can overwhelm conventional emergency services. To assist in the response efforts, the CERT program trains ordinary citizens in how to help themselves and their neighbors in the event of disasters.   

According to the CERT website, “The program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.”

The CERT volunteers quickly came to the aid of both first responders (by bringing food and water to them) and the public by taking the lead on setting up the evacuation center in the Burnet Community Center. In conjunction with the city of Burnet, the American Red Cross, and local restaurants, cots, blankets, and food were provided to the evacuees. CERT volunteers stayed overnight at the community center to assist evacuees as needed.    

We are grateful to all those who responded to the fires. Their exceptional work helped save both lives and property. It could have been so much worse had it not been for the heroic actions of our first responders. We thank you from the depths of our hearts.

Anyone who has an interest in joining the CERT team should contact Jim Barho, emergency management coordinator, at jimbarho@gmail.com or visit the CERT website at burnetcountycert.org.

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