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Park Ranger explains the surprising benefit of the fire in Big Bend National Park

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) -

The South Rim Fire at Big Bend National Park has caught the attention of West Texans for weeks. However, the fire isn’t all bad news for the park.

CBS7 spoke with a park ranger who explained this is natural.

“It turns out that the woodland of those mountains have been shaped by fires for thousands of years,” Park Ranger Thomas Vanderberg said. “It’s not something new to those woodlands. It’s just something that hasn’t happened in a while.”

With more than 1,300 acres burned, we asked Vanderburg what kind of long term damage this could do to the environment.

His answer was a surprise.

He said this is actually going to help prevent other more serious fires from happening in the future.

Back in 2011, the Chisos Mountains suffered a year of little rainfall and a winter freeze to boot which left patches of dead, dried up trees throughout the region.

“A fire like this is something that can rejuvenate a system like that,” he said. “It can clear out a lot of brush. It will clear out standing dead and down vegetation and it opens up mineral soils for new growth.”

Of course, the park has only begun to evaluate the damage done by the fire, so it remains to be seen how exactly each area has been impacted.

Vanderburg said the burned regions will look different for a few years but the plant life will grow again.

“The image that a lot of people may have of their mind that it completely blasted the whole area and it’s nothing but sticks is not accurate.”

Not destroyed, but reborn instead.

The South Rim Fire is contained, though not out just yet, and the park is looking forward to reopening all of the trails. However, Vanderberg said most of the trails are open and this is a nice to time of year to go for a hike and see the cacti bloom.

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