Fire Officials List Train Sparks as Possible Cause of Recent Olmito Fires
OLMITO – Nearly 500 acres of land near Olmito have been burned in the past two months. Brownsville fire responders, who have worked three different scenes, said it’s an unlikely suspect sparking the fires.
Fire officials said they believe a train passing through the area is setting off sparks igniting the fires in Olmito. People in the area are concerned for their homes.
A field of charred grass sits next to Mauricio Sampayo’s home. The fire broke out in the field two weeks ago.
“That last fire burned more than 120 acres, right next to us. Well, it got about 20 meters from our house. Fortunately, the firefighters responded in time,” he said.
Assistant fire chief Cesar Padraza said the fire burned 120 acres.
On Tuesday, another fire sparked on the opposite side of Sampayo’s home near the intersection of FM 1732 and Carmen Avenue.
“It’s the second time in about two months,” Sampayo said.
Pedraza said the fire was contained after destroying more than 40 acres. It took Brownsville fire crews and Los Fresnos volunteer crews almost three hours to put out the blaze.
Back in January, a 300-acre brush fire in the same area sparked a lot filled with tire debris. It burned for days.
“We have reason to believe that the fire was started near the railroad tracks in the area. As the train passes by, due to the friction of the wheels and the railroad tracks, it creates sparks. Those sparks are sometimes thrown out past the buffer zone and creates the fire,” Pedraza said.
Stones line the sides of the railroad tracks creating a buffer zone. Pedraza said in these cases it wasn’t enough.
Sampayo wants something to be done. He’s not sure who should be held responsible.
He said people deserve peace of mind about the safety of their homes.
“Well, unfortunately, the train passes every day and I believe it’s become a problem that we’re starting to see,” Sampayo said.
He is meeting with Brownsville fire officials Wednesday. Pedraza said with so much dry brush in the area and continued high winds, the risk for more fires will continue. It’s an area they’ll keep monitoring closely.
Cameron County manager David Garcia said the railroad belongs to Union Pacific. CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to them to inform them about the issue. We’ll let you know what they respond.
No one was injured in the fire.
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