Mesquite Heat fire damage brings new life to ecosystem

VIEW, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Damage left by the Mesquite Heat Fires in southern Taylor County were devastating. Fortunately, officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service say the fires will actually benefit the ecosystem in the long run.

On both sides of US 277, south of Abilene, charred trees and burned power lines are all that’s left of the foliage which once covered the rolling hills. Damaged by the Mesquite Heat fires, much of that overgrowth needed to go- essentially becoming tinder, waiting to be lit ablaze.

Now that it is burned and gone, the free space will allow for new, fresh growth – even if it looks bleak now.

It’s large fires like the Eastland Complex, as well as Mesquite Heat, that produce new nutrients and soil matter that will in turn produce a stronger, healthier crop within the next few years.

Carbon, much like View and the surrounding areas, was left in ash. Nothing to be seen of the small town but dust, rubble, and the smell of smoke. Driving through Carbon today, you could barely tell a fire rolled through the small town off Highway 6, except for the downed buildings and a few blackened tree trunks. It is full of fresh grass, green leaves and more after receiving just more than an inch of rain a couple weeks after the fires were extinguished.

For those impacted by the Mesquite Heat fires, this should bring a sense of hope and new beginnings.

Nick Dawson with the Texas A&M Forest Service said the “fresh start” is nothing but a good thing agriculturally and for the ecosystem.

“This is going to regenerate new growth and all your, say, coastal grasses- if you’re feeding livestock,” Dawson said. “All this is new growth, all new nutrients, and a new lifestyle environmentally.”

Dawson said the wet 2020 season, as well as the beginning of 2021, led to a dangerous amount of overgrowth throughout the county. He said that overgrowth consisted of plants, in essence, fighting other plants for their share of nutrients, leading to dry, dead foliage.

He also said with that overgrowth, it allows for invasive species of animals, insects and even plants to enter the picture, harmonizing the entirety of the ecosystem in general.

“So, when this fire goes through there, it clears a lot of that overgrowth and it kills some of the competition, per se, and some of those natural resources come back over time,” Dawson said.

It’s that dead, ashy bark, grass and brush that lets the soil air out and get more water penetration, but also acts as a natural fertilizer as the weeks go on.

And just like in Carbon, when the southern portion of Taylor County receives even the smallest bit of rain, new life will begin to grow and a new, stronger ecosystem will begin to develop.

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