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Environment & Nature

Wildfires burning across Texas hurt rural areas that depend on agriculture

Smoke from a wildfire covers a forest.
Texas A&M Forest Service
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State and local firefighters are still working to battle multiple wildfires, including one of the largest known as the Eastland Complex Fire.

Wildfires burning across Texas are not only devastating homes, they’re also negatively affecting agriculture, particularly in rural areas.

One of the largest wildfires still burning is the Eastland Complex Fire, which is made up of multiple wildfires between Fort Worth and Abilene. It is now mostly contained.

Monty Dozier, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Disaster Assessment and Recovery Program, told the Texas Newsroom that the Eastland Complex Fire has burned away over 54,000 acres — mostly in the Eastland County area.

Hay bales smoldering from a wildfire.
Texas A&M Forest Service
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Smoldering Hay Bales near Carbon, TX.

“So, right now, with the pastures completely burned, and we’re talking about an area probably 75 square miles that have been burned, and a lot of that is prime livestock grazing areas of that county,” said Dozier. “So, we’re looking at a time that it’s going to take to get those back up, greened up, freshened up for those cattle to return to.”

It’s estimated that roughly 1,000 cattle have been affected by the Eastland Complex Fire. That’s according to Luke Fritts, the Project Manager for Red Chain Feeds-Gorman Milling. His company sells hay, feed and other supplies to farmers and ranchers in Eastland County.

“Some of them got burned, even hate to say it, but some of them died, you know, there's a lot of stuff between not having hay and then, also trying to get veterinary care for some of these cattle out here,” said Fritts.

So far, Fritts said the area has received some help, including aid from out of the state. And veterinarians from across Texas have arrived to help treat cattle dealing with different issues from the wildfires.

“Whether it be a respiratory deal from all the ash and the dirt getting in their [cattle] lungs as they’re trying to eat, or you know, burn care on their skin and their hoofs, burned off hoofs,” added Fritts.

In addition to Red Chain Feeds and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas Animal Health Commission, and the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association are working together to coordinate donation efforts. AgriLife’s Dozier said they’re currently asking for donations of hay, feed and fencing supplies. Some local drop off sites have already received hay.

This is certainly a situation where our neighbors and friends are needing assistance after losing some if not all of their livelihoods.
-Monty Dozier, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Disaster Assessment and Recovery Program

“These donations will go directly to those who need them as soon as possible,” added Dozier, in a statement. “This is certainly a situation where our neighbors and friends are needing assistance after losing some if not all of their livelihoods.”

The Texas Department of Agriculture has also created a relief fund for monetary donations through the agency’s STAR Fund Disaster Assistance.