Firefighters believe an ATV caused flames to break out in Lehigh Acres on Tuesday. With the dry season in full swing, ATV drivers should know the dangers of riding through overgrown brush.
When someone rides an ATV, the engine gets hot, and that can cause sparks to fly. When those sparks hit tall grass, for example, a brush fire can start.
It was a smoky ride for drivers along Aletha Avenue South on Tuesday. Just before 2 p.m., a spark caused a fire in an empty lot near the road in Lehigh Acres.
First responders contained the brush fire within the hour, which burned through a quarter acre of land.
“When our investigators were able to take a look at the area, there’s a lot of evidence of very significant ATV activity, right along the same pathway where the fire started,” said Katie Heck, public relations officer with Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue.
The empty lot is full of ATV trails. Firefighters say as we enter dry season, these vehicles could pose a risk to homes nearby. To prevent further dangers, Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue is asking ATV owners to install spark arrestors.
“It goes right into the exhaust system, like right in the muffler. And it kind of prevents all those sparks from exiting the muffler,” said Heck.
Heck said it would be great if ATV drivers would also stay out of the tall grass because that also would prevent brush fires. It’s good for neighbors and good for wildlife too.
“We have about 90,000 vacant lots in Lehigh Acres. There’s nice areas for the wildlife to congregate. But when we burn that area down, especially when it’s not by nature or intended to be cleared out, it does create a hardship for animals,” Heck said.
No one was hurt due to the fire, but one neighbor said it makes her nervous that these drivers could pose a risk to her home.
The pile of charred remains reminds Daphnie Charles how lucky she is. The brush fire was just steps away from her home.
“I’m not the only one that’s close by, so it could have hurt my neighbor way more than it hurt us before it got to us, but it’s still scary,” said Charles.
Charles said she sees people driving ATVs in the empty lots near her home daily.
“They know what can happen when it comes to ATVs and driving in the dry grass and stuff like that. So they could be a little bit more precautious when it comes to things like that,” said Charles.
“All of these fires are normally started by people doing something that creates sparks, that creates heat on that dry brush. So especially with ATV riding, it’s best to just avoid it for the next couple of months while it’s so dry,” said Heck.
If you can’t stay off the trails, there are things you can do to prevent fires. Install a spark arrestor and keep it out of tall grass. Heck also suggests, “Stick to legal paths that are well traveled and well used.”
To prevent more fires like this one from happening again.
Heck told me all of these fires are preventable. It just takes a change in behavior by ATV drivers until the summer rainy season arrives.