Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to bring a community together to take action and build a safety net for our friends and neighbors. This happened in Steiner Ranch following the Labor Day fire of 2011.
The wildfires had a tremendous impact on our neighborhood. Thousands of families had to evacuate their homes immediately, and the severity of what we thought would, or could never happen changed our lives in so many ways.
With the loss of 24 homes in the Steiner Ranch Community and devastation all around Central Texas, it was time to take notice that the drought, low humidity and hazardous brush were not a good combination. While we all knew our community could not control the drought or weather, we did know that as a group of concerned homeowners we could start investigating fuel mitigation.
Collective Efforts Reduce Risk
In November of 2011, several of my neighbors formed a group to begin investigating solutions. Nathasha Collmann became Chair of the Steiner Ranch Firewise Committee and along with the support from many of our neighbors, our group began to take action.
“We got in touch with Lake Travis Fire Rescue and we received the proper training, attended seminars and after a year, we became certified,” says Nathasha. “We educated our neighbors and we knew that fuel mitigation projects had to start soon to prevent wildfires in the future.”
I had to get involved because I care about our neighborhood, our friends and our wildlands. As a result, our collective efforts have greatly reduced the risk of wildfire to homeowners and contributed to our residents’ enjoyment of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve.
Strong Sense of Community
It was awesome to see my neighbors spring into action. My participation in organizing and leading fuel reduction activities in a Steiner Ranch HOA greenbelt located in Woodland Hills brought my neighbors together and we all became more aware and educated on what needed to be done, and why we had to do it in order to reduce risk of future wildfires.
“Robby has been a great asset to our community. He organized his entire section and then he distributed flyers that explained what had to be done by Travis County,” explains Nathasha. “The fuel reduction activities consisted of pruning and thinning Ashe, Juniper and Live Oak trees on portions of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. The goal was to remove ladder fuels while leaving the majority of the tree canopy intact. By getting a large group of people together, we were able to get Lake Travis Fire Rescue out here in a very timely fashion. When we have a group of people cooperating and giving access to their backyards that are adjacent to the greenbelt, the crew was able to conduct labor intensive work and cover a lot of ground each day they worked in our community.”
2016 Wildfire Innovation Award
Just to make sure you understand, the canopies of the trees are important because they provide the shade needed along the back fences of the greenbelt as well as in areas throughout the natural terrain. Large trees are not the danger; it is the vines and excess growth that easily ignite and that is what fuel mitigation encompasses.
As a matter of fact, Lake Travis Fire Rescue’s fuel mitigation program has been named the recipient of the 2016 Wildfire Innovation Award, a national award. Truly, the work for our area is beyond amazing and the recognition is well deserved.
Nathasha Collmann shared her hope that more residents get involved on the committee. The more people who get involved will increase awareness and the sharing of new ideas for the betterment of our community. We achieved remarkable results in a short time and succeeded in reducing the risk of wildfires.
I want to thank Nathasha for her leadership, along with those who have volunteered and the other agencies involved in our fuel mitigation activities. Collectively, we have made this a safer community.
We are all very thankful for the opportunity to enjoy our homes, and Steiner Ranch’s active outdoor lifestyle, surrounded by the beauty of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve.
If you would like to participate in the Steiner Ranch Firewise Committee, please contact Natasha Collmann at SRFirewise@gmail.com.