Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Joel reports on the Texas wildfires from the Farm Aid hotline

JoelA hotline caller from Texas reported today that major wildfire has again hit the city of Bastrop and Bastrop County, Texas. What began at 2 p.m. yesterday as a small, two-acre fire was fed by strong winds and expanded extremely quickly, and by 4 p.m. had become a huge fire. Bastrop County is pine tree country and, given severe, prolonged drought, dried out pine trees burn like gas-soaked toothpicks tossed into a campfire. Catastrophe revisited. Bastrop is traumatized again but trying its best to cope.

Exactly a month ago, the city of Bastrop, about 30 miles east of Austin, made national headlines of the grimmest sort when wildfire swept through town. Residents had hardly begun to recover from that major calamity when this latest fire yesterday grew out of control so quickly, again threatening families, homes, ranches and livestock. The caller’s own 31-year-old daughter had to be hospitalized because of heart problems. The local feed store owner had a heart attack and died after the first fire. Ranches throughout the county that have not yet burned have little or no water to fight fire and many have pared down or sold off their herds. Many of those not in the path of wildfires have no hay to feed livestock.

“No matter what, “ today’s caller said, “Bastrop County will not be Bastrop County anymore. People are scared and bewildered. ” Yesterday, DC-10 and C-130 planes swooped in within a few hours—unlike the four days it took to get planes up a month ago—flying extremely low and spreading fire retardant for up to two miles at a time. Bastrop “looked like a war zone,” with charred remains of homes, stone chimneys sticking up into the sky and a blackened, soot-filled landscape.

Although largely unreported until last month, wildfires have been scourging less populated areas of the bone-dry state since last spring. Farm Aid friend and former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower made plain that Governor Rick Perry has been “months late in providing the most basic state leadership to deal with such disasters.” For the whole article, click here. To see photos of what wildfires and severe drought look like—steel yourself before looking at them--see this slideshow by the Austin Statesman.

Farm Aid is trying to help. Here is an article from the San Angelo Times about a hay run we helped coordinate to the small town of Miles, Texas.

Although this year of disasters has all of us on the verge of blinking away the latest disaster report, we ask you again to help us continue to deliver hay to those limited resource farmers in Texas and Oklahoma who cannot afford to purchase it and truck it in from out of state. Farmers in the Midwest have stepped up and done their part, donating tons of hay, which is just waiting to be picked up and delivered to drought areas. Presently, the great logistical problem—which Governor Perry is refusing to help with—is getting affordable (or donated!) trucks and truckers lined up to run hay down from the Midwest to Texas and Oklahoma. The need is immediate; animals cannot wait another two weeks or a month for something to eat. If you can help in any way—with a few dollars to help pay truckers’ fuel costs, with leads on trucks and truckers (especially those with flatbeds to carry large round bales!), or with info about farmers and ranchers who need help—email me directly at joel@farmaid.org.

Farm Aid is you, and you are Farm Aid. We cannot help America’s family farmers and ranchers without you. THANK YOU!

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