Six counties in the Texas Panhandle have been declared disaster areas by Gov. Greg Abbott following the deadly wildfires that swept through the area on March 6 – 7 burning more than 440,000 acres.
Abbott’s March 11 declaration helps clear the way for federal government assistance in Gray, Hemphill, Lipscomb, Ochiltree, Roberts and Wheeler counties.
The Dallas Morning News reported that four people died in the wildfires, including three ranch hands — Cody Crockett, Sloan Everett and Sydney Wallace — who were trying to save cattle from the approaching flames.
Hundreds of miles of fences were burned; the number of dead or injured animals was initially unknown, according to the Texas A&M Agriculture Extension Service. It’s been estimated, however, that around 10,000 cattle and horses were displaced in the fires that charred 750 square miles.
The Texas A&M University publication, Texas A&M Agrilife Today, reported that the costs related to wildfire losses include the cost of cattle lost — at about $1,300 per cow-calf pair — and millions of dollars in fence repairs, estimated at $10,000 a mile for a four- to six-wire fence with steel posts. Additional expenses include the cost of feed for displaced livestock and the costs associated with disposing of animals that perished in the fire.
Texas officials have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a disaster designation to activate the agency’s emergency loan program. The funds would be used to help eligible farmers and ranchers rebuild and recover from losses sustained by the wildfires, according to the Associated Press.
The governor granted a waiver to hay carriers in the Texas Panhandle and asked the USDA to accelerate the temporary suspension of grazing restrictions in the affected areas.