Neighbors Voice Frustration Over Smoke from Cotton Pile Fire

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NORTH OF MERCEDES – A pile of debris left over from a cotton harvest caught fire several days ago and the fire is still going. Authorities said they’ve done all they can.

People nearby said they’re sick of the smoke.

Priscilla Bernal is one of the residents that lives near the burning pile. She described it as a haze.

Jose Luis Agueros, another resident who lives nearby, said, “This, it ain’t no cane, it was worse.”

The smoke from the cotton is coming from behind a private fence and putting a damper on holiday gatherings.

“We could not be outside. The smoke was inside the home, on the clothing, on the car,” Bernal said.

Bernal’s aunt, Leanne, began coughing due to the smoke during the CHANNEL 5 NEWS interview and headed back to her vehicle with her husband.

“And for the past two weeks, we could barely breathe out there,” Mike Bernal said.

The Bernals said it’s been going on for four weeks. Authorities said they were notified this week.

“It’s long as a football field, which is 100 yards, and it is approximately 15 feet high,” Mercedes Emergency Management Coordinator George Garrett said.

“We did send some personnel out there,” John Franz with the Hidalgo County Fire Marshal’s Office said.

The Hidalgo County Fire Marshal said it went out to take a look and to make sure the fire wasn’t spreading to other properties. The Mercedes Fire Department said it worked to put out the fire because of the smoke complaints.

“We put well over 12,000 gallons of water on there in the last three days and then unsuccessful in being able to extinguish the fire,” Garrett said.

Both the Hidalgo County Fire Marshal’s and the Mercedes Fire Department said they thought the International Boundary and Water Commission were responsible for the property.

The IBWC said they lease the land from a private landowner.

The Mercedes Emergency Management coordinator said the pile of cotton refuse was stored on the land. He said the fire broke out spontaneously.

“We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure any applicable laws are followed,” Franz said.

Until now, the county hasn’t issued any penalty. People are waiting for the fire to die out.

Garrett said responders put down water and cut the pile of cotton in half when they went out there this week. Their hope is to cut down the time it’ll take for the pile to stop burning.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS is working on tracking down the owner of the lot. 


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