Pictured: The smoke and fire from a controlled burn at the King Ranch spread across the Jim Wells County line Wednesday, leading to a citation here because of the total burn ban in place. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Ranch claims not told about ban

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Plumes of smoke could be seen across several counties Wednesday afternoon, during a controlled burn by the King Ranch.

The fire, which eventually spread into Jim Wells County, led to the ranch receiving a citation for violation of the county's burn ban by the JWC Sheriff's Department.

Butch Thompson, wildlife manager for the King Ranch, said the ranch contacted the JWC Sheriff's Department earlier in the day to let the dispatch know that a controlled burn was taking place.

"The sheriff's department acknowledged the report, but did not advise the ranch dispatcher of a burn ban in Jim Wells County," Thompson said.

Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez said she went out there and noticed the fire was on the JWC side of the ranch.

She said the Alice Fire Department received a call from the King Ranch earlier in the day, notifying them that the ranch was going to burn. Sanchez said no one had permission to burn right now.

"We have a complete burn ban with no exceptions and no permits. They need to not be burning in Jim Wells County," Sanchez said.

"There was a red flag warning day Tuesday, and conditions are extremely dry in the county, obviously anyone out there burning needs to not be burning, period."

She said the burn ban for JWC was pretty plain and simple, no burning is allowed by anyone.

"We need to lead by example, especially a well-known ranch like the King Ranch, needs to not be burning," Sanchez said.

From her vantage point at State Highway 141, she said the fire appeared to be at least three quarters of a mile west of the Jim Wells County line.

Deputy Joe Martinez was sent by the sheriff's department to investigate whether the flames had been inside the county Wednesday afternoon.

Thompson said Martinez rode with him during the fire, and Martinez did issue the ranch a citation for the burning.

Thompson said again the ranch was not advised of a burn ban in JWC when they contacted the sheriff's department before starting the fire.

Whether the ranch will pay the fine or fight the citation in court, Thompson said, "the decision will be up to the attorney."