Texas is on fire. According to The Associated Press (via NPR.org) “more than 180 fires… have erupted in the past week across Texas, marking one of the most devastating wildfire outbreaks in state history. The fires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes, caused four deaths and pulled the state’s firefighting ranks to the limit.” Hundreds of thousands of acres have reportedly burned throughout the state leaving thousands homeless. In Bastrop alone 7,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes, most slowly returning to find smoldering piles of ashes.
So far we have been truly lucky out here in south Texas. However, this past weekend, we could have easily become another statistic, another little yellow flame on the Texas Forest Service Fire Activity Map: a pickup truck towing a BBQ pit somehow ignited a patch of grass on the southbound side of highway US 281 in George West,TX. Luckily the surrounding area’s responding volunteer fire fighters were able to quickly contain the fire and put it out before it could spread and do major damage to the area.
As we count our blessings and continue to pray for our fellow Texans affected by this horrific tragedy plaguing our great state, we want to take a moment and remind hunters that all it takes is one little spark… So, as you head out to enjoy the 2011 hunting season here in south Texas (and beyond) we urge you to please use common sense and take extra precautions to ensure a safe outing:
- Respect burn bans. Use grills instead of make-shift fire-pits to do your cooking. Bring trash bags and haul your trash back to the nearest town.
- Double, triple, and quadruple-check grills for hot spots before calling it a night or hitting the road with your grill in tow.
- Avoid smoking while out hunting in the brush. If you really, REALLY must get your nicotine fix, make sure you put it out completely and bring ALL your cigarette butts back with you – i.e. leave no trace behind.
- Park and walk. Avoid driving trucks out into heavy brush or onto tall grasses that reach the undercarriage of your vehicle. Trucks can easily get stuck in hidden sandy pits and honest attempts to get them out can set off sparks. Even un-mowed grasses alongside highways can be at risk for fire so take caution when you pull off the road.
If you’d like to help out the victims of Central Texas that have been evacuated or have lost their homes to the current devastating wildfires, here’s a great list of ways to help straight from CultureMap Houston. Keep in mind, most organizations need money, so consider making a cash donation:
- Check the home page of Austin Community Foundation to donate to the Central Texas Fire Relief Emergency Fund.
- Drop off donations at KNBT/KGNB radio station in Austin: Clothing, shoes, new pillows, toiletry items, diapers, blankets, etc. No food items will be accepted. For questions or to volunteer, please contact Megan Hancock at 512-304-8171.
- Austin’s Sweet Dreams Bakery is collecting clothes, toiletries, and pet food to deliver to those in need in Bastrop. Tip jar donations will also be collected. Call 830-626-2253 with any questions.
- The American Red Cross of Central Texas has set up a page to collect money, food and clothing donations.
- Texas Forest Service has established the VFD Emergency Assistance Fund to help volunteer fire departments. All proceeds (100 percent) will be distributed to volunteer fire departments via grants for firefighting expenses.
- Catholic Charities of Central Texas will accept donations for wildfire victims on Tuesday. Donations can be brought to the Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center at 6225 Highway 290 East from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Donations will also be accepted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Catholic Charities of Central Texas in Austin at 1817 East Sixth Street.
- Austin Pets Alive is helping with dozens of Bastrop area animals, and needs donations.
- The Thrift Shop at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin is accepting donations for victims. The shop at 2008 Justin Lane will take donations of clothing, housewares and toiletries.
- Austin Christian Fellowship is taking donations of bottled water, sports drinks, non-perishable snacks, toiletries, work gloves, heavy duty trash bags, flashlights, batteries and pet food. Donations will be accepted at 6401 River Place Boulevard.
- The Oasis Lake Travis restaurant in the Austin area will be serving as a drop-off point for water, work gloves, toiletries, non-perishable food items, clothing, trash bags, and flashlights with batteries. Location: 6550 Comanche Trail.