Fire at SpaceX launch site burns 68 acres at protected refuge killing wildlife

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Fire at SpaceX launch site burns 68 acres at protected refuge killing wildlife

A fire sparked by a SpaceX test at a launch facility in south Texas destroyed 68 acres of bush at a protected reserve on Thursday, wildlife experts say.

Crews at the Starbase in Boca Chica on the Gulf of Mexico were conducting a static test of the prototype Raptor spaceship when burning debris ignited nearby grass, KURV reported.

Fire crews rushed to the site and conducted controlled burns in an effort to stop the flames from reaching buildings on the Starbase facility, the news outlet said.

The blaze spread rapidly onto the neighbouring Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area in the Rio Grande Valley, which is home to nesting birds such as white-winged doves, egrets, and white-tailed deer and alligators.

“That’s a huge and critically endangered area,” a local resident who went to survey the damage tweeted.

Biologist Stephanie Bilodeau told KRGV she found several dead crabs and a large swathe of destroyed vegetation.

Fire crews conducted controlled burns to try to contain the fire at SpaceX’s Boca Chica base (KRGV)
Fire crews conducted controlled burns to try to contain the fire at SpaceX’s Boca Chica base (KRGV)

“It is a concern and I do think SpaceX has some mitigation in regard to this to make sure that this isn’t a regularly occurring thing because small fires out there can very quickly turn into large fires,” Ms Bilodeau told the news site.

The area attracts a large variety of native and migratory birds, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration made an environmental assessment of the space exploration company’s bid to launch reusable rockets from the site, which sits a few kilometres from the border with Mexico.

The approval was dependent on the Elon Musk-led company taking environmental impact mitigation actions including steps to minimise noise and protect air and water quality.

On Thursday, SpaceX tweeted that its Ship24 had completed a 6-engine static fire test at the Boca Chica launch site.