Lightning Fires Close Popular Wildlife Refuge To Visitors

Visitors are being kept away from a popular East Texas recreational area this weekend because of a series of fires caused by lightning.

The McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge near Port Arthur has had four separate fires in the past 12 days, all caused by lightning strikes.

And those marsh fires aren’t easy to fight. Assistant Fire Management Officer Craig Crenshaw says the refuge has about 60,000 acres and the fires are difficult to get to because of the thick vegetation. 

“We are knocked back down to currently finding breaks in vegetation, ditches, roads, things like that, and starting a backburn.” 

Now as for why the refuge has so many lightning fires, Crenshaw says it’s a mystery.

“We’ve got other marsh refuges down the coast.  They don’t seem to get the lightning strikes we do. Our refuge complex here McFaddin-Anahuac get quite a bit on the historical average.”

The McFaddin refuge protects one of the largest freshwater marshes on the Texas coast and it’s believed the fires have hit at least 4,500 acres. But Crenshaw says the good news is that the marshes rebound quickly. One of the burned areas is already coming back.

“It’s already got six inches of growth on it.  So as long as we get a good fresh water rain, it bounces back fabulously.”

Crenshaw says because of the threat of more thunderstorms and lightning strikes, they don’t know yet when they’ll reopen to visitors.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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