Border wall infrastructure helped stop fire from spreading into Granjeno

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Blackened scorched earth in the floodway is seen near the Anzalduas International Bridge in Granjeno on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. The wildfire that burned on Thursday afternoon impacted nearly 1,000 acres in the area. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

GRANJENO — The stench of smoke was pungent in Granjeno Friday morning after multiple fire departments and agencies combated a grassfire that, according to Hidalgo County Fire Marshal Homero Garza, was 95% contained by 8 p.m. Thursday night.

Driving into Anzaldua’s Park, one can see charred grass to the east under the Anzalduas International Bridge and further out. A plume of smoke was still dancing southeast in the distance Friday morning.

In a statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or USFW, said the blaze impacted nearly 1,000 acres on federal land managed by the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

“Firefighters responding to the scene determined that the fire impacted an area approximately 960 acres in size,” the statement read. “Due to the high winds and its proximity to the local community, the Service’s Wildland Fire Technicians and local firefighters utilized a backfire technique to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading any further.”

Garza said border wall infrastructure on the east side of Granjeno stopped the fire from spreading into the city.

The USFW said the fire, which started at 1:10 p.m. Thursday and is believed to be caused by a human, was still 95% contained as of 11 a.m. on Friday.

“No injuries were reported and no mortalities of wildlife have been found as a result of the fire,” the statement read.

Garza, the county fire marshal, also said that authorities maintained a watch on the area overnight.

“The sheriff did keep patrols out there overnight to maintain watch, just in case anything flared up … and I plan to drive out there just to drive around and take a look,” Garza said. “You know, get eyes on it, make sure everything’s good.”

He added that the number of fires that have happened this year are similar to prior years. The only difference is they’re seeing fires in western Hidalgo County where it’s been drier rather than north and outside of the county.

A firetruck makes its way up a levee on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023 where a wildfire consumed nearly 1,000 acres on Thursday afternoon. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“Starr county is … in real bad shape right now,” Garza said. “We’re seeing fires out along the river.”

Garza isn’t sure if those fires are caused by people or if they’re natural as he doesn’t investigate those fires.

Part of the issue is that in the spring, the Rio Grande Valley saw a lot of rain which caused the grass to grow excessively and as of July, the overgrown grass has dried up due to the heat making it more dangerous and susceptible to fire.

Garza cited an incident that occurred last week in the Sullivan City area where an elderly woman burning trash lost control and caused a grass fire.

He asks the public to not burn trash or barbecue at this time.

If one must light charcoal or mesquite in order to cook, Garza asks to be wary of one’s surroundings and to put out those embers with water.

In addition, if one must burn trash, especially those in rural areas, he asks people to call their local fire marshal or fire departments and get a permit which comes with rules, such as contacting the agencies and warning them ahead of time.

Those agencies monitor the weather, heat index, humidity and wind and if they determine it’s unsafe to burn trash at that time, they won’t allow it.

“It’s optimal conditions right now for something to get out of hand really quick,” Garza said.

Garza also insists that people should call emergency services should a fire break out or begin spreading. The faster one calls during a fire, the faster it can be put out.