Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Experts plead to council for fire prevention funding

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TWC News: Experts plead to council for fire prevention funding
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Fire experts are offering strong warnings to the city council the lack of fire prevention measures in the city’s proposed, $385 million bond package.

Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks is on a Paul Revere-like mission to wake up the entire council on the issue, which he says is an issue of public safety.

Nicks is asking the city to fund a new fire station on Loop 360, estimated to cost $10 million.

"People can look at the Bastrop fire and realize that same fire can be transposed in West Austin," he said. "Now is the time to sustain a program when the interest is high."

The large trees and wild brush in West Austin are a daily reminder of wildfire danger for one public official.

"We're talking about a risk that is just not about West Austin, it is the entire community that is at risk because of this," Mike Levy with the Austin Public Safety Commission said.

Nicks is also calling for a Wildland Fire Division with a $2 million price tag.

"It takes an investment. The City of Austin has spent over a year talking about Wildland, forming committees,” Nicks said. “Now is the time to take some action."

In the meantime, fire experts are playing the waiting game with city leaders to see if their concerns will be included in the proposed bond package.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office says the mayor is listening to the fire union concerns, but is said to be committed to passing a bond package without raising taxes.

The firefighters’ requests are currently not included in the bond package, proposed to hit the ballot this November.

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