Officials eye trains as cause of recent fires in Olmito

OLMITO – Brownsville fire officials are investigating the possibility that passing trains may be the cause of the recent spate of brush fires in the Olmito area.

During the past two months, approximately 500 acres of land have burned near Olmito, causing concern for residents about the safety of their homes.

The outbreak of brushfires began in January, when a 300-acre lot filled with old tires burned in the Olmito area.

It took firefighters a few days to fully contain the fire.

Then, a fire that broke out in a field two weeks ago, burned around 120 acres and came within 60 feet of a residence.

On Tuesday, another fire started near FM 1732 and Carmen Avenue. It took almost three hours for Brownsville and Los Fresnos fire crews to extinguish the blaze.

Brownsville Assistant Fire Chief Cesar Pedraza reported that the fires may have started near the railroad tracks in the vicinity.

“As the trains pass by, due to the friction between the wheels and the railroad tracks, it creates sparks. Those sparks are sometimes thrown out past the buffer zones and creates a fire,” Pedraza said.

The buffer zones are created by stones lining the sides of the railroad tracks.

Authorities said the risk for more fires will continue, with so much dry brush in the area and continued windy conditions.

Fire officials plan to monitor the area closely.

Pedraza said that a report on the fires has been forwarded to the fire marshal’s office in Brownsville, but the actual cause has not been determined.

The railroad belongs to Union Pacific, according to Cameron County Administrator David Garcia.

With the trains passing through every day, the situation could continue to pose a threat to adjacent homes.

Fortunately, so far no one has been injured in any of the fires.