Wildfire victims receive outpouring of generosity

Blair Fannin
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service continues to provide support coordinating hay, livestock feed and fencing supplies to producers impacted by the Eastland Complex wildfire.

Fires encompassed more than 50,000 acres around Eastland and resulted in more than 400 dead livestock.

Hay, livestock feed and fencing supplies have been donated to help producers impacted by the Eastland Complex wildfires.

AgriLife Extension’s Disaster Assessment Response team was deployed March 18 to Eastland County to support animal needs assessments with the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team and Texas Animal Health Commission. Staging areas continue at the Texas Cattle Exchange in Eastland County with animal supply points at Rising Star, Cross Plains and Gorman.

“AgriLife Extension, along with its partners, continue to provide support to those affected by these devastating wildfires,” said Monty Dozier, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension director, Disaster Assessment Recovery, Bryan-College Station. “Our DAR agents have served in several capacities, whether coordinating intake and distribution of hay, feed and livestock, or assisting with field assessments. It’s truly been a team effort as we assist these producers during this time of great need.”

Big L Fire recovery in Erath and Hood counties

Erath and Hood County Emergency Management in an effort to coordinate donations and to allow the persons and families affected by the Big L wildfire in both Erath and Hood counties to have designated locations and contacts to access items needed for assistance the following has been established:

To allow for only the persons affected by the Big L Wildfire in both Erath and Hood counties and avoid duplication of supplies, we ask that all assistance request or donations be directed to the agencies/businesses listed or the Erath County Emergency Management Coordinator at (254) 965-1326. The Emergency Management Coordinators in both Erath and Hood are working together to assist those in need.

• Hay and feed needs

If you would like to donate hay or feed, please contact Erath County AgriLife Extension Office, Lonnie Jenschke, at (254) 965-1460. You can also call or go by Triple J Ranch Feeds to purchase feed and have it designated for the Big L Wildfire Recovery Relief, (254) 835-5205, 6611 W. US Hwy 377, Tolar

• Fencing repair items

If you would like to donate fencing repair items such as T-posts, barbed wire, connections and such, please contact Big L Fire Relief, Whitney Kolb at (254) 768-9200

• Fuel donations (red diesel)

If you would like to donate Red Farm Diesel Fuel for the equipment needed to clear debris and brush, move hay for animals and such, contact Cyndi Smith, Erath County Emergency Management, at (254) 965-1326

• Monetary donations

Cash or checks can be accepted by the Erath County United Way by calling (254) 965-4429 and designating them to the home rebuild fund. Gift cards can be accepted at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office, 1043 Glen Rose Hwy., Stephenville, or mailed to the Erath County Emergency Management office 100 W. Washington St., Stephenville, TX 76401

All of the above funds will go to the persons affected by the Big L Wildfire.

If you would like to assist your local fire volunteer fire department, you can contact them directly or you can send a check to the Erath County Firefighters Association, 830A East Road, Stephenville, TX 76401 or call our office for assistance reaching the VFD you want to assist.

At this time Erath County Volunteer Fire Departments are most in need monetary donations to pay for fuel and repairs. Previous generosity of the community with other supplies has them well stocked at this time.

There are four families that are completely homeless and we are looking for the possibility of RVs for an extended use.

After debris removal, we will be looking for building supplies. The items in most need by the families are the following:

• Hay – round bales and square bales

• Feed

• Cow or hog panels

• T posts

• Barb wire

• Stay wire

• Fence splices

• 5-gallon buckets

• Chains & snaps

• Fencing pliers

• Gloves

• Wire cutters

• Cedar staves

• Gates 16 feet

• 2 3/8 pipe

• Well pump supplies

• Bow rakes

• Shovels

Logistical coordination

Bryan Davis, AgriLife Extension agent-emergency management, Sequin, said the challenges the wildfire presents are much different from other disasters he has responded to, including hurricanes, because the fire continues to burn.

“When we first got here on Friday, fires were still popping up everywhere,” Davis said. “I worked with Task Texas Force 2 and the chief of police in Carbon in response to a request to set up a staging operation at the Cattle Exchange. I also worked with Dr. Wesley Bissett and the TAMU Veterinary Emergency Team to work the flow of livestock coming in and coordinate where hay could be stacked safely from any embers, identifying a dry place for sack feed.”

Amid the fieldwork, Davis said DAR agents have been receiving calls for hay and feed donations. Through March 20, more than 400 round bales and several semi-truck loads of cattle cubes and fencing supplies were received. Davis said multiple staging areas are receiving round bales, feed and fencing supplies for livestock operations in the counties affected by the wildfires.

Donations of fencing supplies continue to be a great need for those impacted by the Eastland Complex as well as the Big L wildfires.

“Once the agency’s strike team agents came in, we coordinated work with the Texas Animal Health Commission and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association conducting field assessments,” he said. “We would receive a call from a producer who had either cattle down or had cattle that died and needed assistance with removal. TSCRA rangers were also identifying proper owners of cattle.

“People know we have agents in every county, and we are a service agency. We’ve been working throughout COVID-19 providing various support efforts, so people know what we are capable of and how we fit into the system, what we can offer.”

Communities grateful for support, donations

TJ Cummings, AgriLife Extension agent for Eastland County, said, “People have been keeping me and the other agents swamped with hay, feed, fence materials, and dog and cat food by the pallets.”

One producer sent two semi-loads of bulk cubes and was working to send money to help those affected by the fire, Cummings said.

Cummings said many producers lost cattle and homes when wildfires swept through the same part of Texas in 2006. Some are providing help because they experienced losses then, but others are experiencing a second round of losses to fire.

He wanted to thank donors on behalf of fire victims, Eastland County and AgriLife Extension and said fencing material remains the top request from landowners impacted by the fire.

“It’s just mindboggling,” he said. “It’s very humbling what people have done to help here. We had some ladies at the auction today who were still working despite the fact their homes burned down and they lost their cattle. The grass will come back, but we’ve got a lot of lives and miles and miles of fence to rebuild.”