Texans offer donations to those affected by wildfires

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2011 7:38 PM
Texans offer donations to those affected by wildfires

By Ben Wermund

AUSTIN, Tex (Reuters) - People from across Texas are offering donations of clothes, money and music to a region of West Texas where seven wildfires have burned more than 200,000 acres during the past week.

"This is Texas's backyard, so a lot of people do feel a lot of affinity for this place," Tom Michael, station manager for Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas, said on Wednesday. "A lot of people elsewhere in Texas have responded."

An unusually dry, warm year has sparked the fastest-spreading wildfires West Texas has seen in decades. No humans have died in the fires, but homes have been destroyed and livestock have burned. The fires have also destroyed thousands of acres of grass, the lifeblood to ranchers in the area.

"This is bad, even by Texas standards," said C.J. Norvell, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service.

The Forest Service battled 19 fires across the state on Wednesday. Since January 1, more than 720,000 acres have burned statewide, according to the service.

Clayton Gotcher, a student at Odessa College, drove more than 100 miles to Marfa, delivering clothing, blankets, pillows, toys and toiletries to the radio station, which has abandoned its regular pledge drive for contributions to support its broadcasts and has become a donation drop-off center.

In Austin, details are being finalized for a concert to raise money for Jeff Davis County, where 108,000 acres have burned.

The benefit show, which will be held in the county in June, has verbal commitments from two "very large scale headliners" who are Texas singer-songwriters, said Mercer Black, who is organizing the event. West Texas native Doug Moreland will also play the concert.

Relief efforts are also under way in the counties hit by the fires, where officials are asking for monetary donations as opposed to clothing or other goods. There is a Jeff Davis County Relief Fund bank account, and local fire departments are asking for monetary donations.

Meanwhile, emergency workers are bracing for a hard fight during the next couple days, when the weather is expected to be dry and windy -- prime conditions for wildfires.

"Everything is working against us," Norvell said. "The situation really is volatile."

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan)