AUSTIN (KXAN) – The cause of a large fire overnight in an elementary school parking lot is being blamed on fireworks. According to fire crews, it was the fourth fire they worked in about an hour. Now, Austin police are looking for those responsible.
The fire caused around $35,000 worth of damage outside Govalle Elementary. Fire crews watched the area for hours to make sure hot spots didn’t reignite in a large pile of insulation sheets that had been staged at the school for construction purposes.
When fire crews arrived they say they found a significant number of used fireworks close to the site of the fire.
Because the sheets are highly flammable, fire officials had to go through the pile panel by panel to make sure all of the embers had been extinguished. “We had some ember issues, not only that but the stuff burning produces a pretty toxic smoke and so when people go inside their homes until we had the fire knocked down. This is just one example of people not taking care of their neighbors,” said Austin Fire Division Chief Palmer Buck.
Those who live across from the school say they hear fireworks go off in their neighborhood often. “The only thing we heard yesterday before we went to bed last night was a bunch of fireworks going on,” said a neighbor of the school Lula Sneed. Sneed has lived in her East Austin home for more than 20 years. She says every year around this time it’s the same story. “It’s scary, it really is scary.”
But in all those years, Sneed never thought the celebration would lead to this, a parking lot covered with charred construction material. “It’s just unbelievable, I can’t even imagine,” said Sneed.
Chief Buck says other fires caused by fireworks Sunday night damaged a trailer on Westlake Drive and also caused a grass fire in the Avery ranch area putting many homes in danger. He also adds that even though the area has seen a lot of rain, the high temperatures have dried up just about everything that could prevent a fire.
“We understand it’s the 4th and everybody wants to celebrate and fireworks go hand and glove with that but this is an example of why we have made an ordinance about fireworks within the city,” said Buck.