COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Staff, students, alumni and faculty across The Texas A&M University System helped fight and contain the Panhandle wildfires last week, and they now are continuing to provide relief and services to people and animals affected by blazes that scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said the members of the Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the West Texas A&M University community represent the best of the A&M System and exemplify the core value of selfless service.
“Throughout our System, members have always stood ready to help our neighbors in need,” Chancellor Sharp said. “We will continue to do whatever we can for the folks affected by these wildfires, especially in a region that has supported one of our great institutions, West Texas A&M University.”
The Texas A&M Forest Service and other agencies have worked hard to contain the Panhandle Fires that started March 6. Crews from the Texas A&M Forest Service have battled fires on three fronts:
[if !supportLists]· [endif]The Perryton Fire, which burned in Ochiltree, Hemphill, Roberts and Lipscomb counties, was the third largest blaze battled by the Texas A&M Forest Service in its response history. It has been contained at 318,156 acres. Texas A&M Forest Service remains on the scene, where crews are working in conjunction with local ground resources. They are making progress with mop up, and fire behavior has been mostly smoldering and creeping.
[if !supportLists]· [endif]The Dumas Complex Fire in Potter County, near Amarillo, has been contained at 28,800 acres.
[if !supportLists]· [endif]The Lefors East Fire, which occurred in Gray and Wheeler counties, has been contained at 135,000 acres.
In anticipation of continued windy fronts for at least the remainder of the month, Texas A&M Forest Service has activated the heavy airtanker base in Abilene and positioned a 3,000-gallon Bae-146 jet airtanker that can drop fire retardant in an effort to slow the spread of a wildfire.
Further, the Lone Star State Incident Management Team from Texas A&M Forest Service has set up an incident command post in Merkel to support wildfire response in the region.
The team deployed with 35 members, including members of Regional All-Hazard Incident Management Teams. The network is comprised of local responders from throughout the state and from all walks of life and professions.
The team is in place in anticipation of continued wildfire weather conditions and activity. Twenty-five of the 30 largest wildland fires in Texas history have occurred between the months of January and May.
Meanwhile, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service worked to meet the needs of the ranchers who lost cattle and thousands of acres of grassland to the wildfires. The agency established three Livestock Supply Points and helped coordinate with three nonprofits to take donations of feed, supplies and money to aid in the relief effort.
Supply points had collected or scheduled almost 200 semi-trailer truck loads of hay and feed from as far away as Nebraska and Arizona. Feed, fencing supplies and medicine for cattle that survived but are burned also have been received at the three Livestock Supply Points.
Livestock Supply Point contacts and wildfire prevention, preparedness, recovery and mitigation information are available at http://TexasHelp.tamu.edu/
Additionally, AgriLife Extension agents serve as third-party verifiers of dead animals to meet the needs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and the programs they offer to ranchers who suffered losses.
The agency’s role is to let ranchers know that federal programs are available to them and educate them on what they need to do to be eligible. Danny Nusser, AgriLife Extension regional program leader in Amarillo, encouraged ranchers to call their county Farm Service Agency office before deadlines run out.
In the near future, AgriLife Extension will offer area meetings to supply landowners with more information as they move toward recovery.
At Canyon-based West Texas A&M University, students and faculty in the Department of Agricultural Sciences have been collecting everything from socks and shirts to food and drink items as well as monetary donations for those affected by the fires.
To contribute, please go to: http://www.wtamu.edu/about/wildfire-relief.aspx
The University’s Student Success Center joined the effort by conducting a canned food drive in support of those affected by the fires. Canned food, clothes, toiletry items, blankets and more will be accepted through Tuesday. Further, West Texas A&M athletics gathered donations and supplies at Buffalo Sports Park last weekend for the people of the Panhandle.
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 148,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $972 million in FY 2016 and helped drive the state’s economy.
Contact: Laylan Copelin
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(512) 289-2782 cell