Austin Fire responds to oven fire prompted by restored power service, urges residents to turn off appliances
The Austin Fire Department responded to a structure fire on East Seventh Street that was caused by an oven left on when the power went out. As power was restored, a fire started. No one was injured.
AFD is urging residents to make sure their cooking and heating appliances are turned off during the power outage to prevent such events.
The department responded to a separate structure fire on East 12th Street on Wednesday. Two people were declared dead on the scene and a third patient was transported to a hospital in critical condition. No cause has yet been determined and will not be released pending autopsy results, according to an update AFD posted on Twitter.
The department has received 18 calls regarding fire alarms since 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, in addition to calls regarding a trash fire, a smoke investigation and an odor investigation, according to city data.
Since the power crisis began early Monday morning, AFD has responded to multiple structure fire and toxic exposure calls, the latter of which have occurred when residents used charcoal inside their homes in an attempt to stay home. This can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.
AFD has responded to 3 working structure fires today that were all related to fires that originated around the fireplace. Picture is from 6607 Brodie Lane. 20 apartments displaced. Unknown total pic.twitter.com/9UDuGCizjz
— Austin Fire Info (@AustinFireInfo) February 16, 2021
AFD has also responded to hundreds of calls related to broken pipes and collisions caused by the winter storm and resulting power and water crises.
As of 6 pm another 685 broken water pipe (BWP) calls to 911 since midnight. Many of those in the last few hours. Dispatchers are currently answering about 1 BWP call per minute. We are only able to respond to a fraction of these calls.
— Austin Fire Info (@AustinFireInfo) February 17, 2021
Local officials advise residents without power to do the following:
- Stay inside
- Dress in layers
- Avoid downed power lines
- Don't use generators indoor
- Use flashlight and battery-operated lanterns rather than candles and kerosene lanterns, which carry fire risk and fume hazards
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed and follow USDA guidelines regarding food safety during a power outage
- Turn off major appliances to avoid overloading electric lines when power is restored
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.