The wildfires that have scorched the Central Texas landscape since early September have affected thousands of people, including several in Abilene.
The Texas Forest Service has responded to about 150 fires for more than 17,000 acres during the previous week. Of Texas’ 254 counties, all but four have reported burn bans.
Taylor Newhouse, a sophomore nutrition major from Montgomery, has been feeling the effects of the wildfires, even though she is far from home. Her family was nearly forced to evacuated as the fires approached their house.
“There were some fires in Riley off Riley Road, and that was not even 20 miles from our house,” she said.
Newhouse’s family received an email instructing them to pack their belongings and be prepared to leave pending further notice. She said being unable to be there with her family was difficult, but she did the best she could to help. She talked to her mother and made a list of items that were necessary for the family to take with them. To their relief, the order to evacuate never came.
Wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes, including the home of the parents of Brent Isbell, preaching minister at University Church of Christ. He said that his parents evacuated their home Sept. 4 and learned two days later that it did not survive the fire. Isbell’s parents, who live on the east side of Bastrop, had only 15 minutes’ notice before they were forced to leave their house. They were able to grab only a few items to take with them.
Isbell said were it not for the actions of two of their neighbors, his parents could have lost many of their treasured possessions. As the flames approached, the neighbors brought an empty fishing boat and, with his parents’ permission, broke a window to enter the house and loaded the boat with their treasured possessions, despite warnings from the police.
“Five times they gave the officers Diet Cokes from my folks’ refrigerator to buy a few more minutes,” said Isbell. He believes the neighbors are heroes for rescuing many of his parents’ prized possessions.
Newhouse and Isbell each offered their own suggestions for ways students can help those affected by the wildfires.
“Definitely pray for rain,” Newhouse said. “Just as a tip, know where all the important stuff in your house is. When the time comes you don’t want to be running around the house trying to think of 50 things at once that you want to take. Just think about it, because you never know if something were to happen.”
Isbell said physical needs are the biggest priority.
“When you are trying to rebuild from square one, you need everything.”
ACU students have already begun to respond to the call for help. On Monday, after Chapel, students donated almost $3,500 to help victims of the wildfires.