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Vernal Pool Fire at Enchanted Rock Poses Questions of Arson

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Tony Maples Photography


Last week, firefighters were called out to Enchanted Rock after reports of flames at the popular Texas Hill Country destination. The fire was limited to an area that contained a vernal pool. The investigation deemed the fire suspicious and arson is suspected.

Enchanted Rock, A Mystical Wonderland

Photo: texashillcountry.com

In March, two park visitors were captured on video defacing a rock formation with graffiti at the outdoor recreational hotspot.

Now investigators think someone has intentionally destroyed a delicate vernal pool. A Texas Parks and Wildlife publication states the vernal pools “are some of the most ecologically significant and severely threatened features of this state natural area.” The vernal pools are shallow, pitted areas on the face of the granite rock caused by weathering that collect water during times of rainfall. These pools then act as home to plants and animals, like the fairy shrimp, that aren’t found anywhere else but in vernal pools or occasionally in other puddles of standing water.

Vernal Pool Fire at Enchanted Rock Poses Questions of Arson

Photo: Flickr/Roy Luck

In March 2016, the sensitive nature of the pools forced park officials to ban dogs from Summit Trail that leads to the top of the rock and passes by many of the pools along the way. Litter, trampling, and dog waste were destroying the tiny ecosystems that allow researchers to study how plants and animals colonize a new environment, how the environment changes over time due to its habitat, and how plants and animals evolve in an environment.

Vernal Pool Fire at Enchanted Rock Poses Questions of Arson

Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Investigators found no evidence of accelerants used in the fire and have no clue about who might be responsible, but the fire definitely comes as a blow to the park. In an Austin-American Statesman article, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area superintendent Doug Cochran said, “Anytime anything like that happens we take it personally. It’s something that we have to deal with and we hope people learn from this and we move forward.”