SBTC DR’s rapid response to largest wildfire in Texas history continues

SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers have started the process of helping homeowners dig through the ashes even as historic wildfires continue to devastate the Texas Panhandle. SUBMITTED PHOTO

PAMPA—James Greer, director of missions for the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association, knew the situation was getting dire as wildfires erupted across the Texas Panhandle at the end of February.

Greer quickly contacted Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief Director Scottie Stice to inform him that the convention’s quick response unit (QRU) housed in Pampa had been activated. Volunteers staffing the mobile food truck had already begun preparing hundreds of meals for first responders by Feb. 27.

After analyzing the paths of multiple wildfires and their proximity to nearby shelters, Stice and Greer coordinated the Pampa QRU’s move the following day to nearby Canadian, in Hemphill County, so it would be closer to where it would be needed most.

This is sometimes how disasters go. SBTC DR’s decision to locate equipment and units at key spots throughout Texas once again proved practical, facilitating rapid response.

Additionally, a shower and laundry unit has set up operations at First Baptist Church in Canadian.

“We’re not centralized at one yard or one warehouse with our units and equipment,” Stice said. “The system works for us. We can get to places fast.”

Five wildfires thus far have burned 1.3 million acres and are only partially contained as of March 4, according to published reports. The Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County is by far the largest, to date burning 1.1 million acres with only 15% contained as of March 3. The wildfires are the largest in Texas history.

Five wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres, and emergency responders say the fires are only about 15% contained. SUBMITTED PHOTO

In addition to the Pampa QRU, where volunteers have now prepared more than 1,000 meals, SBTC DR assessors, chaplains, incident management team members, and clean-up and recovery volunteers have arrived in the area and begun work.

“Our first assessors were onsite over the weekend,” Stice said, adding that recovery teams from First Baptist Church in Melissa and First Baptist Church in Pampa were already clearing debris and preparing to help homeowners sift through ashes.

“Teams have also started cutting up the frames of mobile homes destroyed by the fires,” Stice said.

SBTC DR volunteers in the area will be relieved by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from New Mexico and Arkansas, Stice added. Send Relief is also transporting donated hay from Kentucky to the area to help care for 65,000-plus cattle impacted by the disaster.


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