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Protect your home from wildfire with help of free workshop

Inks Lake 2018 wildfire

In 2018, the Highland Lakes endured a number of wildfires, including one that scorched several hundred acres in and near Inks Lake State Park. A workshop on July 20 in Bertram will go over what residents can do to protect homes and property. Photo by James Oakley


After Bertram Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bobby Huffstuttler and community volunteer Jane Scheidler attended a recent symposium on wildland urban interface fire protection in Austin, the two couldn’t keep it to themselves.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘We need to bring something like this to Bertram,’” Scheidler said.

And they are.

The Bertram VFD is co-hosting the Wildfire Preparedness Workshop with presentations from the Texas Forest Service and the Austin Disaster Relief Network. The event is 9AM-12:30PM on Saturday, July 20, at the Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library in Bertram.

The program will feature interactive exercises and provide information on fire protection, particularly hardening homes and property against wildfires.

Scheidler said the Austin symposium was an eye-opener for her.

“There are things that just aren’t obvious to you about protecting your home until someone points it out to you,” she said.

A big focus of the Bertram program will be wildland-urban interface, which refers to a zone where homes are built in more natural habitat rather than traditional suburbs or high-density developments. As more people seek a little place in the country, the number of homes in what’s considered wildland-urban interface has grown.

Scheidler pointed out that while the grass and wildfires that occur in Central Texas aren’t as devastating and widespread as the ones in the western United States, they are still very destructive.

So far, the summer of 2019 has been relatively quiet for wildfires in the region compared to 2018, which saw several large ones in the Highland Lakes and Central Texas.

“People need to know how to harden their homes against wildfires, but also, as a community, we need to work together to protect everyone,” Scheidler added.

At the July 20 workshop, Texas Forest Service and Bertram VFD personnel will go over ways to protect homes and communities. The Austin Disaster Relief Network will share its mission and explain how residents can help first responders during a natural disaster. The network was among one of the first organizations to respond to the Highland Lakes after the October 2018 flood and helped organize relief efforts.

Though fire protection is the main theme of Saturday’s program, Scheidler said one of the things she learned in Austin was the importance of volunteers.

“They had trained people go visit with homeowners and to a walkthrough and point out the vulnerabilities,” she said. “I’d love to get more people involved in volunteering. We have untapped resources in some of the people who live in the Bertram area.”

The program is not just for Bertram residents. It’s open to anyone in the surrounding area.

There is no charge to attend the workshop. Along with valuable information, there will be refreshments and prizes. The library is located at 170 N. Gabriel in Bertram.