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Ranch fires darken skies in at least 2 counties

March 12, 2013 at 8:04 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2013 at 10:13 p.m.

Lisa Knipling, a  Goliad elementary school teacher, said at first she thought the scheduled ranch fire was a nearby suburb  burning.

Lisa Knipling, 41, was out fishing by Port O'Connor with her family when they noticed smoke rising from a distance.

Lots of smoke.

"The area was getting larger and larger," Knipling wrote in an email. "My son kept saying it's a controlled burn, but I wasn't sure."

And it turned out her 15-year-old son was right.

Crossroads residents saw a massive cloud of smoke drift through the area Tuesday as two controlled burns occurred in agricultural fields and darkened skies in Calhoun and Victoria counties.

One person not only saw the smoke but also felt it.

Victoria resident Kathy Custer, 46, said her sinuses clogged about 5 p.m. while she was gardening.

"I started getting sick to my stomach and nauseated," Custer said. "I had to come in. I couldn't stay outside."

Cale Hummel, of the Port O'Connor Volunteer Fire Department, said residents noticed the billowing smoke about noon Tuesday rising from a controlled agricultural fire on Powderhorn Ranch.

Agricultural burns usually span between 3,000 and 5,000 acres, Hummel said.

Another controlled agriculture fire burned on the HK Ranch, of Placedo, east of Victoria and three miles away from Garcitas Creek, said Victoria County Fire Marshal Ronald Pray.

Pray said he and his team of firefighters responded to the burn at 5:15 p.m. after receiving reports about the blaze approaching the road.

"It started to cross into the roadway, and we put it out near the shoulder of the road," Pray said.

Another fire that occurred at a Victoria junkyard also could have contributed to the smoke drifting into Victoria, Pray said.

"All that wind from the Gulf has been carrying the smoke toward Victoria," Pray said Tuesday evening as the field fires diminished. "I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'd recommend staying indoors if you have any sensitivities to smoke."

It is not unusual for ranches to have prescribed burns on the same day, he said.

Custer, a family nurse practitioner at the Crossroads Health Center, said she expects to receive a flood of patients this week because of repository problems caused by the burning ranches.

Knipling said that while she didn't have trouble getting back home through the smoke, the fish she caught in comparison to her other family members left her disappointed.

"The guys caught the reds early, and all I caught were darn hardheads," wrote Knipling. "Smoke didn't bother us at all."

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