Fire consumed an estimated 20 to 25 acres of grassland at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture and in an undeveloped area adjacent to the preserve on Friday, Jan. 13.
The undeveloped area next to the preserve is a 67-acre parcel that borders Port Street and is owned by the City of Port Aransas. City officials in the past have discussed the possibility of building a marina there.
No injuries were reported, and no structures were damaged as a result of the fire.
The fire lasted about four hours and sent towering columns of smoke skyward, visible to practically everyone in Port Aransas.
The blaze started when dry grass came into contact with the hot exhaust of a lawnmower that a city worker was using to mow in the nature preserve area, city employees said.
While some might worry that the preserve suffered a setback from the flames Friday, the fire actually was good for wildlife habitat, according to Rae Mooney, the preserve manager.
Fire beats back invasive plant species such as Brazilian pepper trees.
“Following a fire, native species will come back very healthy, and the established invasive species will, too, but we will have easier access to spot-treat new growth (or invasive vegetation) with herbicide after,” Mooney said.
A family of four whooping cranes, an endangered species, has made their winter home at the nature preserve.
“ The whooping cranes would not have been impacted by the fire. As most animals, they know to leave the area, but also, in the area of the preserve where the fire occurred, the cranes generally stay in the wetlands and flats,” Mooney said.
“The fire may benefit them for food sources,” she said. “At the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, they have been known to take advantage of foraging in areas where fires have occurred.”
The Port Aransas Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire and was assisted by fire departments from Aransas Pass and Flour Bluff.
Coincidental to Friday’s fire, city officials had been planning to likely conduct a controlled burn in the 67 acres on Saturday, Jan. 14.
While plans to conduct the burn Saturday were called off, they could be reinstated later. The city has a permit to conduct a controlled burn, and it doesn’t expire until August.
Contact Dan Parker at email@example.com.
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