In recent years, wildfires have devastated many communities in the U.S., including causing major damage in Central Texas. Bastrop County in particular has suffered two major fires, including the 2011 Bastrop Complex fire and the Hidden Pines fire of 2015. Collectively, these two fires burned 39,000 acres and destroyed 1700 homes. As a pilot, John Cyrier flew aerial observation during the 2011 fire. During the 2015 fire, he was the area's newly elected representative and worked alongside emergency service personnel.
In the aftermath of the Hidden Pines fire, a group of citizens developed a report with recommendations to improve our preparedness for a future fire event. One of the most significant recommendations was to locate an air tanker base in the Central Texas area, so that fire retardant drops could occur quicker and at more frequent intervals. Tankers in previous Central Texas fires came from out of state.
Rep. Cyrier brought together representatives of the Texas A&M Forest Service, Austin Fire Department, and Austin airport officials to reach an agreement to locate a portable tanker base at the Austin airport. Funding was provided by the legislature through the Texas Wildfire Protection Plan, and local firefighters are now trained on the operation of the equipment. The base is now operational thanks to the hard work of grassroots citizens and the partnership of different levels of government with the common goal of serving the public. As a result, we are more prepared to fight wildfires in Central Texas than ever before.