Firefighters battled a large 4-acre brush fire near State Highway 45 and MoPac.
by Ann Fowler
OAK HILL – The Fourth of July was no picnic for local firefighters. Fires and rescues kept them busy for most of the day.
Around 1 p.m., a large 4-acre brush fire was reported near State Highway 45 and MoPac. The Oak Hill, Austin and Manchaca fire departments, in addition to STAR Flight, responded. Fire crews worked the incident until 8 p.m. The cause was a bad conductor on a utility pole, causing an arc.
Austin Fire Department Division Chief Palm Buck told the Gazette, “Mitigating factors included the ambient temperatures and several piles of cedar poles that became involved.”
A 2-acre grass fire near the 10000 block of Circle Drive was reported at about 1:15 p.m. with Oak Hill, Lake Travis, Austin and Westlake fire departments responding. The fire damaged an abandoned structure, shed and vehicle. Fire crews stayed on scene until 4 p.m. The cause was a controlled burn that got out of control.
A small grass fire in the 8000 block of Mowinkle Drive was reported at 9 p.m. Oak Hill Fire Department firefighters had the fire out by 9:30 p.m. Fire officials said Sheriff’s deputies discussed the combination of fireworks and fire danger with residents in the area.
At 11 p.m., a fire was reported burning in the top of a palm tree in the 8900 block of Gallant Fox Road. Oak Hill firefighters had the fire extinguished by 11:45 p.m.
Oak Hill Fire Chief Jeffrey J. Wittig told the Gazette, “The report is not yet complete on this fire, but the top of a tree on fire would most likely be a fireworks-related cause.”
Fire incidents were not the only emergency calls on July Fourth. A wilderness rescue was reported at 2:15 for a person with mild to moderate heat exhaustion at the low water crossing on FM 1826. Rescue took time as that location had limited access. By 3:15 the patient was located and transported to the hospital.
“As you might see from the times provided, we were actively working two fires and a rescue operation at the same time,” said Chief Wittig. “Our area is fortunate to be able to participate in a closest-unit automatic aid agreement with our surrounding Travis County neighboring departments (including Austin). Without that assistance, things would have been much worse yesterday afternoon.”
Chief Buck advises using common sense as the temperatures rise and vegetation dries out. “Use caution with ‘hot work’ outside like welding and mowing. Dispose of cigarettes properly. Don’t throw them out the car windows.”