Holy Smokes

How to effectively prevent wildfires and support victims

Wildfires are a growing concern in the United States, while some prescribed burning/wildfires are natural, rapid climate change across the U.S. has now left us with deadly burning seasons. With over seven million acres burned in 2020, it’s a safe bet that someone you love or know has been affected by wildfires in the past two to three years. In 2022, Eastland County, Texas was caught in flames as nearly 45,000 acres were destroyed in the course of three days. It seems, with the world up in flames, many people wonder what they can do to prevent wildfires, and what they can do to help others in need who have been affected. 

Preventing wildfires is a crucial first step to eliminating the possibility of wildfire spread and destruction. When building a campfire, first check to see if there has been a burn ban issued in your area. A burn ban means that there are no campfires, bonfires, etc. permitted in the area. It is recommended to only start fires in designated fire pits, on a day with little wind, and never leave a fire unattended. 

One of the most drastic ways wildfires start is at the hands of fireworks. Fireworks should never be lit in dry patches of grass, a fire extinguisher or water source should always be on hand ready to extinguish a possible fire, and children should never be left unattended in the presence of fireworks. If you need to burn trash or other items, it is recommended to burn them in a 50-gallon fire-safe drum or designated fire pit. Of all the outdoor fire safety tips, this one prevails above all others: do not start outdoor fires on windy days. This can lead to embers being picked up by strong winds, displaced, and the start of an uncontrolled fire.

In March 2022, Eastland County, Texas experienced some of the worst burns in history. Beginning Mar. 17 and lasting nearly through the end of the month, the Eastland Complex fire burned in total nearly 54,000 acres of agricultural and rural land. Wildfire destruction is one of the most devastating natural disasters for ranchers and farmers across Texas; it kills cattle, destroys crops, and disturbs land. 

Since the Eastland County fires, many people have sought to donate funds and items in order to help. If you choose to donate the most needed items are water/gatorade, food, over the counter pain medications, eye drops, hygiene supplies, clothes, household items, and of course any monetary donations. 

There are a variety of places in Eastland County taking donations, a quick Google of “How to Donate to Eastland County” will pull up the various organizations accepting donations. In addition, the Erath County Sheriff’s office will be taking donations as well. It has also been advised that those affected by the wildfires use the STAR funds. STAR stands for State of Texas Agricultural Relief Fund. If you or someone you know has been affected, you may qualify for state-allotted monetary relief as compensation for the natural disasters. 

For more tips on how to prevent wildfires visit www.smokeybear.com and www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire/how-to-prevent-wildfires.html. If you want to donate items to Eastland County, please take donations to the Erath County Sheriff’s office. If you want to give monetary donations please donate to the various Go Fund Me’s at this site: www.gofundme.com/c/act/donate-to-texas-wildfire-relief