Interim Blanco police chief Carl Bragg informed the Blanco County News that on July 4, two individuals were apprehended for allegedly opening fire hydrants on Fulcher and Mesquite Streets between 3:00 and 4:00am. According to public works director Nathan Cantrell, over 200,000 gallons of water gushed out of the hydrants into the streets and down the hill into the state park. Mayor Tina Gourley said that campsites on the west side of Blanco State Park were flooded by the rush of the water. According to Bragg, the fire suppression system was drained, reducing water to a critical level. State protocol required that TCEQ be notified of the action, and TCEQ in turn was required to report the act to the office of Homeland Security and the FBI. “Anytime a water supply is threatened, it is procedure to notify Homeland Security and the FBI,” stated Dale Kohler, Assistant Homeland Security Coordinator.
A tip from the Johnson City police department alerted Blanco police to the possibility of the action after over 100,000 gallons was drained from Johnson City hydrants. However, that amount did not constitute a critical shortage, according to staff at the Johnson City city offices; therefore, they did not notify TCEQ. Blanco police officer Robert Stewart found two individuals emptying the hydrants and arrested them. Johnson City authorities released the names of the individuals who allegedly committed the act; they have been booked on criminal mischief charges and incarcerated in the Blanco County Jail. Dustin Garrett is a 2008 Blanco High School graduate who worked with the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department. His senior bio stated his desire to attend Fire Fighter Academy. Stephen Chase Howells graduated from Blanco High School in May 2009.
Mayor Tina Gourley expressed her thanks to Blanco fireworks vendors and local residents, who responded to her plea that fireworks not be sold or fired off during the severe drought. “It’s horrifying,” she said, to think of the catastrophe that might have occurred if fireworks had ignited a dwelling during a time when the fire suppression system was drained. Nathan Cantrell stated that the system has now been replenished, so the city is no longer at risk.