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Idaho Enterprise

Pray for the Panhandle

Mar 07, 2024 12:01PM ● By Allison Eliason

With winter storms moving through the territory, it can be hard to believe that other regions of the country have been ablaze with devastating wildfires.  While we have been working to keep cattle alive through the cold, wind, and snow, fellow ranchers are fighting to save them from the disastrous fires that race across their rangeland.

In the panhandle of Texas, north of Amarillo, a series of wildfires began Monday, February 26, that have mushroomed into a overwhelmingly destructive scene.  The largest of the fires, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, has extended to more than 1.1 million acres in what has become the largest fire to move across The Lonestar State.  The warm temperatures, dry air, and high winds have made it difficult to gain control over the fire and slow to contain it.

In addition to it, four other fires are raging across the panhandle, destroying lands, homes, and communities.  According to reports from the Texas A&M Forest Service given Monday, the other fires include Gray County’s Grape Vine Creek Fire, which has burned nearly 35,000 acres and is 60% contained, Moore County’s Windy Deuce Fire, which has burned 144,206 acres and is at 55% containment, and Oldham County’s Magenta Fire, which burned nearly 3,300 acres and is 85% contained. Hutchinson County is also facing the new Roughneck Fire, which has reached an estimated 300 acres and is
25% contained. 

Over the weekend, weather conditions have turned in favor of fighting the fire, with rain and even snow showers moving across the lands.  The stark contrast of the white snow atop the blackened earth clearly demonstrated how fast conditions can change, for the good or the bad.

Unsurprisingly, the Texas panhandle is home to many ag producers that have not only lost their communities and homes, but also the means to their ranching and farming businesses as well.  Farmers and ranchers have found thousands of rangeland acres burned, crops completely ruined, everything from fences to barns reduced to ashes, and dead livestock dotting the scorched ground.  

The Texas producers have little time to grieve the devastation of the fire as there is still work to be done to minimize continued losses.  As warnings came, farmers and ranchers attempted to move their herds out of the fire’s destructive path, but in many cases, there simply was not enough time or means to do so.  Many of the livestock that survived the wildfires have suffered burns to their flesh, udders and hooves.  In the most critical cases, the humane treatment for these animals is to be put down.

Ranchers lucky enough to have saved their herds have a dilemma of their own in finding the space and feed that they need.  And tt isn’t just hay that they need for their mature cows, but also milk replacer for their calves.  Midway into their calving season, ranchers are finding calves that have lost their mothers or have mothers with burned udders so badly that they can’t nurse are suffering
as well.

As the panhandle producers are going through such a devastating time, they are lifted by the all encompassing, country-wide ag family that are rising up to donate what they can in this time of need.  From semi-loads of hay to fencing materials to simple cash, people are donating where and how they can to help keep fellow farmers and ranchers fighting another day.  Across social media, texts and more, supporters are asking for prayers, positive vibes and all the good karma as they spread #PrayForThePanhandle.

 There is no minimizing the devastating losses so many have suffered from the Texas panhandle wildfires, but in the midst of such loss we see producers, consumers and supporters far and wide showing their grit and determination to fight.  We have seen it before and will see it again- farmers and ranchers with a hope and a resilience that tomorrow will be a better day.

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