Wise County residents stepped up Monday to raise nearly $60,000 for those affected by the massive grass fires that scorched the Texas Panhandle earlier this month.
A packed house at the Decatur Livestock Market bid on a plethora of donated items – from livestock to vacation packages – to pool funds for firefighters in the counties most affected by the fires, which are estimated to have caused at least $21 million in agricultural losses, burned 480,000 acres of grazing land, destroyed 975 miles of fence and killed about 2,500 cattle, according to an Amarillo Globe-News article posted Wednesday.
“I mean, it wasn’t like we planned it out weeks in advance,” said Mickey Scarborough, who co-owns the livestock market with business partner Kimberly Erwin. “This was done on a Friday, and Monday it happened.”
Scarborough said he’d received a call the week before from a man who wanted to donate a calf to be auctioned, with the proceeds benefiting the Panhandle residents. Scarborough and Erwin posted plans for a benefit auction on the livestock market’s Facebook page, inviting locals to donate items to be sold. Multiple auction items and animals were bid on and then resold again, helping double or even triple the amount of money raised.
“We were in awe of how this community came together on such a short notice,” Scarborough said.
Twenty-five area farmers and ranchers have also signed up to donate more than 2,430 round and square bales of hay, according to the Wise County Extension Office. The fires destroyed an estimated $1 million in hay and feed, affecting 25,000 to 30,000 cattle. Extension office staff member Laurie Washburn said hay donations statewide have now exceeded the need, but fencing supplies and monetary donations are still being accepted.
Watching the fire’s devastation unfold through social media, Melanie Tittor of Paradise and her daughter, Emma, had an idea.
After Emma’s Italian cream cake won junior grand champion food at the Wise County Youth Fair earlier this month, the family offered up a second, identical cake to be auctioned on Melanie’s Facebook page. It was won by a family friend.
Several other people commented on the post wanting to send stand-alone donations, allowing the Tittors to send a total of $1,500 to the Amarillo-based Working Ranch Cowboy’s Association.
“It surpassed any expectation,” Melanie said. “It’s really just incredible the way this community has stepped up.”