West Texas is ablaze right now. Several parts of West Texas are, actually. It's been pretty heavy on my heart and foremost in my mind the last few days.
One massive fire this past weekend threatened my hometown, and might still be threatening it, frankly. It burned through a nearby town, where I currently have at least one friend living, and where a few friends from my youth lived. About 70 homes and structures were destroyed. I still need to get in touch with a friend of mine to check on her family's ranch. Actually, I should ask two of my friends about their families' ranches, now that I think of it. The town that burned was evacuated, and luckily, no one died, but it's still distressing. My town and another neighboring town were on alert. Sunday afternoon, a friend posted a photo of what the blaze looked like in the wee hours of the morning, from my town, facing the burning town. Scary as shit, to see the mountains silhoutted at night in a halo of orange. It looks like the forestry service has finally managed to get some of the blaze under control. But for about two days, the local NPR station was reporting on Facebook and Twitter that the fire was 0% contained. To make matters worse, the wind gusts were massive: 50 - 60 mph. That's pretty standard for a West Texas Spring - especially in the Panhandle; more on that later - but the worst part of it was not only was it spreading the fire like, well, wildfire, it was too gusty for emergency helicopters to swoop in and douse the flames with retardant.
The same friend that posted the photo of the fire at night, posted a video this morning, edited by a local photographer who captured images in the fire's wake. It's utterly sad. There are homes smoldering - one of which looks very similar to the house some good friends grew up in; I need to contact them - charred land, flames spreading in lines and independently, and in two brief consecutive shots, dead animals. Horses. One apparently dead from inhalation, the other charred. I read in an article on the Statesman (or was it MSNBC?) that a local official talked about seeing horses on fire. I'm sure many cattle were burned, too. I really feel for those animals and for their ranchers. Horses are just magnificent creatures anyway, but I remember how the rancher kids I went to school with loved their animals. Even if the cows and sheep were reared to be slaughtered, no one wants to see their livestock suffer. They're still cared for and treasured, as creatures. In the video notes, the photographer said there were many, many animal carcasses, he actually left most of them out of his video. In one shot, there's a wild turkey running down the road, while a football field away, the hills are burning. Smoke laces throughout the hills and it's amazing to me that anyone would know which direction the fire is coming from. Presumably, you probably wouldn't. My friend who currently lives in the hardest hit town was able to return to her home yesterday. Her house was spared, thankfully. I've been thinking a lot about them. Not just because they live there, but because her husband is a minister and a volunteer fire fighter. So he's got double duty: fight the flames, comfort the afflicted.
In addition to my teenage stomping grounds burning, there is an equally large fire tearing up the Panhandle. The last I read, two towns were threatened: both towns in which I have family members. One of which is where my grandparents are buried. I haven't heard from my family up there, nor have I read any reports yet about how that fire is going. Just suffice it to say, I'm very worried. I don't want to see my family harmed or their homes - including the one my dad grew up in - destroyed.
It's not like Texas - West Texas, in particular - is unaccustomed to wildfires. I remember, when we lived in Southwest Texas, each year, it seemed, wildfires would rage south, near the border, but none ever threatened us. We kept an ear out, but they never got close to us. And it wasn't uncommon to see a grassfire burning a ways off the road as we drove from town to town. I think this year has been particularly dry, though. There are several big fires going throughout the state right now. The biggest and nastiest just happen to be in West Texas. The last I checked, there was no rain in the foreseeable forecast. At least not for the SW Texas area. Which sucks. The good news is that the winds have died down, and the big town-destroying fire is partially contained. I just read of a new one, about a mile north of my town which is also large and currently un-contained. I don't wish I were there right now, but I do wish I could hug everyone affected by the fires right now. I can't imagine their anxiety.
Sorry for the bummer post, and for the stream of consciousness style writing. (More SoC than usual, anyway.) We still need to donate to relief for the Japan earthquake, but I guess we'll add the people of West Texas to our donation list. I think we'll start here: www.arcswtx.org. It looks like you can donate to Japan relief, too. So: two birds with one stone, eh?! Sigh.