Austin firefighters average 500 calls a day. After it snowed, they answered 3,000 calls in 24 hours

Heather Osbourne
Austin American-Statesman

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Austin and Travis County first responders continued to help residents with emergencies including highway wrecks, house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning Monday night and again into Tuesday after a dangerous winter storm dumped more than half a foot of snow across parts of Central Texas. 

Many Central Texas residents for a second day Tuesday were without power as temperatures dipped into the single digits. As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, more than 550 Austin-area residents took refuge at some of the city's emergency shelters. 

More people were expected to leave their homes during the day Tuesday to shelter at the Palmer Events Center in South Austin before roads freeze over again by nightfall, a spokesperson from the city said.

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Some Austin-area residents who were unable to travel on Monday took drastic and dangerous measures to heat their homes with charcoal and propane. As a result, Austin-Travis County EMS medics responded to 13 calls for carbon monoxide poisoning from midnight Sunday until midnight Monday.

Austin-Travis County EMS officials said they had gotten more than 900 calls by 5 p.m., adding that 12 were related to carbon monoxide, adding that three people were transported in serious condition. 

Officials also reported 17 crashes in the area — four of which were rollovers. 

Firefighters at 1:34 a.m. on Tuesday tweeted that they responded to four calls for toxic exposure since since 6 p.m. Monday. 

"This is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to death from CO poising," firefighters warned in the tweet.

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Austin-Travis County EMS medics from midnight Sunday until midnight Monday responded to 1,435 calls for service. Medics usually respond to about 350 to 450 calls in 24 hours, according to a spokesperson from Austin-Travis County EMS.

From midnight until 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Austin-Travis County EMS medics had already responded to 459 calls.

Austin firefighters on Monday, from noon to midnight, answered nearly 1,900 requests for service in Travis County, including calls involving vehicle crashes, downed power lines and broken pipes.

Firefighters respond to an average of 500 calls for service in a 24-hour period, Austin Fire Department officials said. But after the historic snowfall in Austin late Sunday, firefighters on Monday — in just 12 hours — responded to 1,890 calls.

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Austin Fire officials at 1 p.m. Tuesday also released an update, saying firefighters responded to another 1,170 emergency calls in the Austin area and 225 in Travis County from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday until noon. 

One of the calls firefighters responded to during the day Monday was to Brodie Lane Apartments at 6607 Brodie Lane in South Austin, where residents from 20 apartments were displaced. That fire was caused by residents lighting their fireplaces, firefighters said.

Just after midnight, Austin firefighters also responded to a home on the 5600 block of Sedona Drive in Northwest Austin. That home was a total loss and two adults were displaced, firefighters said. Crews stayed at the home overnight to monitor hot spots. 

Almost 1,600 of the 1,890 calls answered by Austin firefighters on Monday were in the city of Austin and included:

  • 466 calls about broken water pipes
  • 8 calls for collisions
  • 50 calls after fire alarms were activated
  • 40 calls to assist the public (including removing downed trees)
  • 3 calls about downed lines or arcing wires
  • 3 calls for fires

The breakdown from 12:01 a.m. until noon Tuesday include: 

  • 135 calls about broken water pipes
  • 60 calls after fire alarms were activated
  • 12 calls to assist the public (including removing downed trees)
  • 9 calls for collisions
  • 8 calls for fires
  • 1 call about downed lines or arcing wires

Austin-Travis County EMS calls from midnight Monday until midnight Tuesday included: 

  • 93 for falls
  • 69 for exposure
  • 13 for carbon monoxide 
  • 9 for collisions  
Austin firefighters respond to a Brodie Lane apartment fire on Feb. 15, 2021.