Oil & Gas Editor
Well over 1,000 oil-related vehicles, alone, be it 18-wheelers, larger service trucks or pickups, travel through Pleasanton every day. This is in addition to the regular inner-city flow of traffic. As we’re entering the hot, dry summer time of the year, a lot of this traffic will proceed through other cities and the rural areas of Atascosa, McMullen and other counties in the brush country. It is time to provide some helpful information on what to be aware of and things we can do to lessen the threat of grass and brush fires. Low humidity and windy conditions can make grass and brush an easy fuel for fire. Additionally, at times, in rainy conditions, lightning, a natural phenomenon, can cause fires. Put all of this together, and it calls for responsible actions by all of us to minimize the chances of these fires damaging property.
Pleasanton Fire Marshal Scott Garris said, “Homeowners, especially in the outlying areas of the city, should make sure they have a minimum distance of thirty feet, surrounding their homes, with no high grass, vegetation or low-lying trees. All of this can be fuel for an oncoming wildfire.”
“The Pleasanton area is in kind of a crossroads of the ecosystem.” said Justice J. Jones, State Wildland Urban Interface and Prevention Coordinator with the Texas Forest Service. He continued, “There are diverse fuel sources for fires in the surrounding landscape. Also, considering the area logistics, there are increased challenges for the fire service and emergency responders to be able to react to a fire. Due to the remoteness from responders of some of many likely fire locations, it can take considerable time for them to get there. Along the Interstate 37 and 35 corridors, there’s lots of growth springing up all over that terrain. The mindset can be unrealistic in the brush country area. A person would, ideally, want to pick up his phone and have somebody there in five minutes. That’s the time to ‘get real’. That’s highly unlikely timing. It will probably take a fair amount of time for responders to arrive.”
“It takes a lot more ownership of your personal preparedness and responsibility to be taken in the prevalent rural environment. Truck drivers and others must be more responsible and judicious. If you have a blowout or other vehicular failure and there’s a resulting fire, in windy conditions, call 911 first, before using your fire extinguisher. These grass fires can be very difficult to extinguish and a fire extinguisher is not intended to control wild fires, it’s for the vehicle.”
Jones continued, “Remember, one thing, that is really important to know, in the State of Texas, ‘If you start a fire, you own that fire and any damages that are associated with it.’ If you’re camping out, fortunately, campfires are not a major cause of wildfires in Texas, but they can spark and become a problem with the right conditions. So make sure your fire is ‘dead out.’ If you have a shovel of dirt on hand as well as water, if possible, use these two methods to make sure your fire it totally out. Of course, know if you’re authorized to have a campfire where you’re camping out, based on restrictions or the current conditions. Texas has some very scenic highways and it’s very common for folks to pull over to the side of the highway to take pictures of wild flowers or the vista. That shouldn’t be done if you’re in an area that has tall grass that’s cured and very ready to burn. The new cars, with catalytic converters, can start fires very easily, so you just don’t want to take that chance. Another thing - if you’re a hiker and you happen to be a smoker, carry something with you to extinguish it on your person rather than trying to extinguish it on the ground. Don’t just toss it and think it’s totally out. It only takes one spark to start a fire. The acceleration atmosphere in some of these situations make it easy to start a fire very quickly.”
“By far, this past fire season was the most destructive, catastrophic of all times in Texas. and it is a record. But, I don’t believe that it was necessarily an anomaly. We’ve been trending toward increased ground fire activity, really, over the past five years. We actually find ourselves around the middle of a thirty year cycle. We have ten or more years to go, that can be bad or worse, before that drought cycle declines. So, what that means to us, as Texans, is that we’ve got to change our culture in the way we approach our environment. We live in a fire environment and that’s not going to change for a while. So, we encourage residents to find a way to live in harmony with the fire environment and don’t be creating sources for ignition. Don’t let your home and your property be a fuel for wildfires. We’re always going to have lightning. It’s a natural part of the process. But, we can control our contributions to those losses. There are three factors that cause fire; fuel, heat and oxygen. We can’t control the oxygen and we don’t want to eliminate this, that’s for sure. Heat sources often come from lightning, so, we don’t have control over that. But, what we do have control over is the fuel around our homes. Actually, thousands of homes were saved in the intense fire areas this past year because of diligence on the part of homeowners in maintaining a safe, fuel-free environment on their property,” said Jones.
Pleasanton Fire Marshal Garrett added, “The area outside of Pleasanton is very susceptible to high damage if there’s a fire that starts in the outer region and moves toward the city. Two of the big factors that play a key role in any wild land fire is low humidity and high winds. With the wind, it’s a lot harder to stop. In some cases, we might not have enough fire fighting resources.”
Garrett said, “I am in the process of getting a grant that we’re, presently, working on, called an Opticom system. It is GPS technology where we’ll having tracking devices on all of our emergency vehicles. This will enable us to get through the city quicker. Right now, with the enormous increase in traffic, with oil service equipment coming through, along with usual traffic, this will help a lot.”
The Opticom system, designed by Global Traffic Technologies, is a traffic control system that provides a green light - and therefore, intersection right-ofway to emergency vehicles. Equipped vehicles have an emitter, which broadcasts a visible light and/or invisible infrared signal to a receiver, which is mounted on or near the traffic signal. The signal is connected to a circuit card which is located inside of the traffic control cabinet. When the circuit card determines that the signal is valid, it will activate an output which will request the green light from the traffic controller for the approaching emergency vehicle. The traffic controller will also activate the confirmation light if the intersection is so equipped (for example, a floodlight mounted on or near the traffic signal).
LEON ZABAVA is the Oil & Gas Editor of the Pleasanton Express. Contact him at 830-281-2341 or firstname.lastname@example.org