By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The Comanche Trail Community Association will be conducting a “wildfire drill” and residents will be going through a mock evacuation rain or shine at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2.
“On the day of the drill, a message will go out that there is a wildfire drill and that (Comanche Trail residents) should prepare to evacuate,” said Will Boettner, fire education outreach coordinator with the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office.
The Comanche Trail Community will be notified of the 1-hour drill through its internal communication system for CTCA residents. The system, similar to neighborhood social media site Nextdoor, shares community notifications of events such as house break-ins, accidents, and emergencies.
Boettner said of the 200 or so homes in the Comanche Trail association, approximately 50 will be actively participating and will actually leave their homes and proceed to evacuate by heading toward Comanche Trail Drive. They will be given direction by Travis County Sheriff’s officers, and Travis County Parks rangers as to where to go.
“During the drill, members of the Lake Travis Fire Rescue ESD#6 will be spraying roadside vegetation in simulation of fire suppression along the escape route,” Boettner said.
The Lake Travis Fire Rescue lake fire boat and Travis County Sheriff’s lake patrol boats will be staged along the shore as potential evacuation resources.
“During the drill, participants will see fire suppression efforts, experience the potential stress of attempting to leave their homes quickly and effectively and the possible limitations to attempting to evacuate a community with only one way in and one way out,” Boettner said.
Comanche residents will also experience the possibility that their escape routes could be cut off during an active fire. Options for evacuees will include going to the Oasis Texas parking lot for refuge, going to one of the Travis County parks in the Comanche Trail area and/or sheltering in place if their escape routes are not accessible, Boettner said.
Following the drill, there will be a participant wide “after action review” to discuss public perceptions, areas of concern, what went right and what could be improved.
Graduate students from the University of Texas will be conducting surveys of the evacuees to gauge their reactions to the drill and the possibility of having to actually evacuate their community in the event of fire.
There will be refreshments and the event will end at 11:30 a.m.
“This will be the culmination of more than two years of discussions and planning,” Boettner said.
The scenario for the wildfire was developed by the Comanche Trail and Travis County planning group and is based on a series of possible wildfire scenarios developed in collaboration with the Austin Fire Department’s Wildfire Division using their computer modeling capabilities to predict potential wildfire behavior in the Comanche Trail area, he said.
Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea has played a key role in gathering resources and meeting with the working group from the outset.