Thursday, August 13, 2009


A large fire burned approximately 100 acres of brushland in the western section of Rio Grande City near two subdivisions in the late afternoon and evening of Friday, Aug. 7, but many firefighters at the scene managed to stop the blaze and limit structural damage to the back porch of one home.

Rio Grande City Fire Chief Ricardo Reyes declared on Monday, “It took roughly seven hours to get the fire fully under control…The fire got very close to roughly 10 homes. One home had significant damage to its back porch. It was the homes in Live Oak Subdivision and Stonegate Subdivision that were threatened.”

Reyes noted, “Ambulances were on standbye in case we had to evacuate the nearby rehab and nursing home – the Rio Grande City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.”

He indicated, “The fire broke out at approximately 5:30 p.m. (Friday). Roughly 100 acres were burned…We responded initially with three units – a tanker, a brush truck and one engine.” The fire escalated to the point that 13 other fire departments in Starr County and the Valley arrived at the scene to provide assistance.

“The site of the fire was by the Live Oak Subdivision in western Rio Grande City, just past the Water Department building,” declared the chief. “…The initial fire broke out about 80 to 100 yards or roughly a quarter-mile north of Highway 83.”

Reyes commented, “Right now we don’t have any idea how the fire got started. At this point, we don’t suspect arson.”

Reyes stated, “The fire was under control by 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., but there are still hot spots in the main area of the fire, the pit area, which we’re still having to watch carefully (as of Monday afternoon, Aug. 10). There were a lot of materials being dumped there and that’s apparently where the fire started.”

“We stopped the initial fire at certain points, but the fire had spread to multiple locations,” explained the chief. “We had trouble getting access to the main area of the fire, but bulldozers were used to gain access…We used some army trucks from neighboring jurisdictions to attack the fire.”

Reyes continued, “After it broke out, the fire spread in a northwest direction…I’d say the winds were blowing from the southeast at 15 to 20 miles per hour. The fire was spreading quickly due to the high winds. The smoke made it difficult for surrounding residents and firefighters.”

Reyes noted that the Roma, Salineno, Zapata, La Rosita, San Isidro, La Casita, La Grulla, La Joya, Sullivan City, Palmview, Mission, McAllen and Edinburg Fire Departments sent firefighting units to help contain and extinguish the blaze. He pointed out that the Rio Grande City Police Department and Starr County Sheriff’s Department assisted with traffic control.

The chief explained, “The terrain, with some creeks and ravines, made it difficult for firefighting vehicles to approach the fire…It was a problem that the fire broke out between residential areas.”

Reyes declared that the blaze did not come close to being a serious threat to Starr County Memorial Hospital.

About the current extreme drought and heat wave, Reyes stressed, “People need to avoid doing any outside burning at this point. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

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