Wildfires leave unthinkable loss across Southern Plains

No amount of aid can replace the losses. No word or deed can fill the voids left by lost loved ones, some of whom perished trying to rescue their animals. But all can take some comfort in knowing that people are kind and eager to help.

More than a million acres of pasture and rangeland burned across Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas, from March 7 through 9, leaving unthinkable personal loss from human fatalities. Livestock and property damage has been extensive. Estimating the number of livestock killed or injured from the devastating wildfires will take weeks, according to state agencies. Hundreds of miles of fencing have been destroyed; structures have been burned to the ground, and countless pieces of equipment has been ruined or badly damaged by the fires.

The horrifying tragedy also demonstrated the depths of human kindness from the people who understand this kind of loss best—farmers, ranchers and other rural residents who know that livestock owners see more than dollars and cents gone up in smoke with the death of an animal or loss of forage necessary to sustain cattle, wildlife and the soil. They understand the reverence farmers and ranchers feel for the animals and the land.

As soon as folks learned that wildfires were raging across the Southern Plains, they began loading trucks and trailers with bales of hay, feedstuff and personal necessities for those who lost their homes. They called their neighbors, contacted news outlets and put out requests over social media for help.

No amount of aid can replace the losses. No word or deed can fill the voids left by lost loved ones, some of whom perished trying to rescue their animals.  But all can take some comfort in knowing that people are kind and eager to help.

Here are a few photographs from the Texas Panhandle depicting the devastation in, but also the generosity of friends, neighbors and strangers who just wanted to help.  We thank Texas AgriLife Extension media specialist Kay Ledbetter for access to these photographs.

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