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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. A cold start for this morning. But sunny skies lead to lower 60's this afternoon. Warmer over the weekend, and a slight chance of showers will move back in on Sunday.
Marsh wildfire burns about 5,000 acres
HIGH ISLAND - by Lauren Huet
People as far away as Houston are seeing smoke from a wildfire in McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says investigators believe someone set the fire, possibly a hunter.
The Wildlife Service is working to end the fire as soon as possible. Smoke from the fire is spreading and affecting people as far away as Harris County.
"At this point it's primarily the residents of High Island," said the assistant manager of McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, Ernest Crenwelge. "And it is blowing. We have had other calls from the Houston area, and so I'm assuming the smoke has made it down to Houston overnight."
The Fire Management Officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim Stockie, says the refuge is divided into units that have borders, such as levies and creeks. They use these borders as fire barriers. Stockie says the unit where the fire is has the Gulf of Mexico as its Southern border, the Intercoastal Canal as its Northern border, and levies to the east and west. He says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to set fire to the rest of the unit containing the blaze. After all of the marsh burns, said Stockie, the fire will have no more fuel to keep it going. The Wildlife Service hopes to end the fire as quickly as possible.
"The unit it's in is over 5,000 acres in size, and so if we were to just let it burn, it could be burning for days and days," said Crenwelge. "And so, because of the smoke and the direction the smoke is headed, we're going to try and get on top of it and hurry it along."
The refuge assistant manager says this fire was not a controlled burn.
"The paramaters that we use, if they're not in place you can really start causing other issues with smoke shutting down airports or causing multi-car pileups on 73. We saw that happen last year," said Crenwelge.
Crenwelge says whether a fire is wild or controlled, it benefits marsh wildlife.
"You get that vegetation building up over years, and years, and if you don't do anything with it, it basically suffocates out the new growth," said Crenwelge. "And so without a fire, your marsh will start deteriorating after a number of years."
People who live in High Island, which is near the marsh, say they're used to marsh fires.
"I don't know who's starting them, but it's every year. I don't know if it's the cowboys or the bird hunters," said High Island resident Jimmie Carter.
"We can deal with the smoke. I don't know if you Houstoners can, but we can. We're cowboy tough here," laughed another resident, Doug Waugh.
"A small price to pay for living in paradise," said Carter.
The Wildlife Service believes it can contain the wildfire to the refuge.