Operation helps keep lakes safe

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David Minton/DRC
Denton County Sheriff's deputies patrol boats in "Party Cove" on Lewisville Lake near West Lake Park, Saturday, July 6, 2013, in Hickory Creek, TX.
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HICKORY CREEK — Summer is a time people tend to let go and have fun at the lake, but sometimes that fun can lead to danger.

Introducing Operation Safe Lake. Sheriff William Travis shared the idea with area agencies earlier this year to ensure that everyone on the lakes has a safe and enjoyable time when lakes get crowded, such as the Fourth of July.

Travis said the authorities’ presence on the lake has helped “stop a lot of shenanigans you might typically see.”

From Thursday through Sunday, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Denton County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Office, Certified Emergency Response Team volunteers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Hickory Creek police and the Lake Cities Fire Department for the operation.

“There were no drownings on either lake during the holiday weekend,” said Randy Plemons, the sheriff’s assistant chief deputy of operations.

Jody Gonzalez, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said the patrols were not just about writing tickets for boating while intoxicated, but making sure boaters had the proper equipment on board.

Officials said they saw many violations that included not having a life jacket or not having a working fire extinguisher — two things required to pass a boat safety check.

“It’s not about how many tickets you can write, but keeping the people safe,” Gonzalez said.

During the holiday weekend full enforcement, Plemons said, was out on Lewisville and Ray Roberts lakes.

The four-day period included 114 safety inspections, three citations, seven written warnings, one arrest for boating while intoxicated, one special event and nine calls for service.

Travis said one of those calls was about a boat crash that occurred Thursday night.

“The woman appeared to have some cuts on her foot from the glass breaking, but no serious injuries,” he said Saturday.

Plemons said alcohol was not a factor and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game wardens worked the crash.

“We will be out again in full force for Labor Day,” Travis said.

County firework enforcement

In other holiday patrols, Gonzalez said all seven fire marshals, as well as the three emergency management staff members, were on call throughout the weekend to help with grass fires caused by fireworks.

“We saw more than usual this year since the ground wasn’t so dry,” Gonzalez said, referring to the number of fires started by fireworks. The situation occurs every four or five years.

Officials said the county can’t limit or stop the sale of fireworks unless the grounds hit an “extreme dry” level.

“Right now, we are just in the middle of the drought index so there was nothing we could do legally,” he said.

From June 27 through Sunday, the county responded to 86 grass fires caused by fireworks. Forty-five of those were after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Gonzalez said.

“None got over the size of 2 to 3 acres, and that we attribute to some green still mixed in on the grounds and that the wind wasn’t too bad,” he said. “We handled them with mutual aid as best and as quickly as we could, at times we were spread real thin.”

Gonzalez said there were several fires across the county.

The Denton Fire Department said it responded to about 40 fireworks-related calls.

Spokesman Kenneth Hedges said none of the estimated 40 calls were of serious nature nor did any grass fires start from the use of fireworks.

Most of the county calls were from the Justin and Ponder area and along the U.S. Highway 380 corridor, officials said.

“Luckily, they [the fires] were small and nobody had to be transported [to the hospital] this year,” Gonzalez said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.

 


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