Official warns Central Texas could see greater risk of wildfire in late summer

Communities urged to remain vigilant about wildfire risk


Four Points News

Although rain has been in the Austin-area forecast for weeks now, local and state officials assembled May 15 at River Place Country Club to inform residents that the regional danger for wildfires still exists later in the year.

With almost eight years between the wildfire that hit Steiner Ranch and today, residents have become complacent about being proactive to use best practices to minimize the risk of such a disaster, the experts said. Additionally, the area’s recent rains have put the threat of a wildfire emergency out of the minds of many citizens, with the added population growth indicating that some newer residents aren’t fully aware of the catastrophe that affected Four Points in 2011.

“It’s really easy to forget how bad (a wildfire) can be (and) it’s also easy to think it’s not going to happen to you again,” said Kari Hines, firewise coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Both with the number of people who are coming in every day who do not come from an area that is exposed to wildfire and even the people who have been here forever but forget how bad it can be, it’s very easy to forget.”

Kari Hines, firewise coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, addresses the the local risk of wildfire during a May 15 media conference at the River Place Country Club. LESLEE BASSMAN

She said the higher than average rainfall the area is experiencing now is predicted to continue through the summer. However, similar to what happened in 2015 and the latter part of last year, Hines said “we are expecting that the El Nino conditions will make it easier for wildfires in Central Texas to burn in our late summer.”

“So, the late growing season—we’re talking about late-July, August, September—we’re predicting wildfires will be able to burn,” she said.

Four Points News will elaborate about the risk of wildfires in the local community and what residents can do to protect themselves and others in next week’s newspaper.