Fire crews, park rangers work to prevent wildfires

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 5, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 6 at 9:25 AM

From Southwest Travis County to Barton Springs in Austin, fire crews and park rangers were doing what they could to get a handle on or prevent wildfires during drought conditions.

Sunday evening, helicopters were dropping water on a 25-acre wildfire in Southwest Travis County.  The fire broke out on private land just east of Milton Reimer's Ranch Park.  The same drought conditions that fueled that fire prompted Park Rangers with the city of Austin to make the rounds Sunday, looking for vehicles parked illegally on the grass on parkland.

"Some cars spark when they start, and that's all it takes in this drought and this dry weather," said Kendric Witt, a park ranger with the city of Austin. "That's all it takes to set this grass on fire."

Whether it was by car or by bike, Austin Park Rangers worked the city parks in the Barton Springs area.

If the rangers found people by their vehicles, they would just issue a verbal warning, but unattended vehicles parked illegally got a ticket.

"I think it will help," said David Schwanke, a park ranger with the City of Austin. "You can only ask somebody so many times, and then eventually that education is going to have to cost them something."

All park patrons KVUE talked to who had parked illegally appreciated only getting a warning and some agreed with what the rangers had to say about why they should not park on the grass.

"I think it's very true that cars have heat underneath them, and the exhaust manifold can actually light dry grass," said Michael Cummings, who received a warning.  "I've heard rumors of that happening."

However, not everyone accepted the theory about cars on dry grass sparking fires.

"I never really took that into consideration," said Teddy Silcox, who received a warning.  "I guess if I back out, I'll try not to set the joint on fire."

The Texas Forest Service reports a failed insulator on a power line sparked Sunday's wildfire in Southwest Travis County.

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