Thursday, March 09, 2017

More than 5,000 cattle displaced as fires die down

As wildfires around the Texas Panhandle were extinguished or determined to be under control, the toll from the fires began to take shape as ranchers and authorities started to tally up the thousands of acres and heads of livestock lost to the blazes. As many as 478,935 acres burned as of Wednesday evening, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, while the Lipscomb County fire is estimated to be 60 percent contained and the Lefors East fire in Gray County is down to occasional hot spots, giving local officials optimism about the situation. “The fire is out other than some little pop ups,” Gray County’s Office of Emergency Management said from Judge Richard Peet’s office. “It’s estimated at around 135,000 acres lost, but we still have no cattle numbers.” While the fires have calmed for now, the risk for more wildfires remains high due to weather forecasts that predict little or no rain through next week, according to the National Weather Service. “We’re not looking at any precipitation through next Tuesday for most of the area,” NWS forecaster Edward Andrade said. “There’s a very small chance of rain in the eastern part (of the Texas Panhandle) for Friday and Saturday, but that’s only 20 percent. There will be less wind that what we’ve had, but we still expect fire danger to be at least elevated. We don’t want people to let their guard down.” While some of the fields are still smoldering, and smoke could be seen drifting across southern Amarillo mid-day Wednesday, local ranchers are working to assess their losses. Early estimates for displaced animals are in the thousands, according to the Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association. J.R. Sprague Jr. of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office said that at just two days after the fires it is “way too early to even guestimate” the number of cattle lost. Instead, TCFA has turned its attention to trying to get supplies to ranchers with displaced cattle in an attempt to prevent additional losses. “We don’t yet have good estimates of cattle deaths,” said Jayce Winters, TCFA’s communications manager. “But more than 5,000 head have been displaced and are in immediate need of hay and feed supplies.”... more

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