Yesterday I wrote about how desperately we need rain, and how bad the winds were. And wouldn't you know, fires started popping up around 1:30 yesterday. A huge billow of smoke could be seen just east of my town. I was calmed by the fact that the wind was blowing out of the west, so thankfully, the opposite direction of town. However, it was dangerously close to a friend's house, and headed straight for another very small community. The Palo Duro Canyon, one of the most beautiful places in our area, was also on fire (and the latest information I've seen this morning shows that is still is). Families (and campers) have been forced to evacuate. The Amarillo Globe News this morning says 30,000 acres have burned thus far. It'll only get worse if we don't get rain: here is a map showing our wildfire danger.
The Texas Panhandle has some of the bravest, selfless firefighters I've ever heard of. There is a very special place in my heart (as well as my entire family's) for firefighters...especially the volunteers. With all due respect to all first responders, firefighters are grossly underpaid (I stole that from Barb Wire Man, by the way! Thanks, honey!). Perhaps I'm a little biased. I know quite a few volunteer firefighters (and paid, as well). I've drank a few beers with some. I went to school with some. I've worked with some. They've saved the homes of close family members and friends numerous times in the course of the last 5 years.
There aren't very many paid fire departments in this area of Texas; I don't know exact numbers. The volunteer firefighters don't even get compensation for what they do. They put their lives on the line each time they go fight a fire, but don't give it a second thought. Their families sit at home and worry about them while they are gone, but are staunchly supportive and proud of them. I am not trying to imply that paid firefighters only do it for the money, but I will say this; it takes a special person to do this type of job for no other reason than their heart leads them to do so. They only compensation a volunteer firefighter receives is the occasional "thank you". No end-of-the-week paycheck. No paid health insurance. No holiday time, personal leave, sick leave, or paid vacation. But when the beeper goes off, they immediately drop whatever they are doing, because they know they are the last defense between a raging fire and someone's life. Not only do they not get paid, many times they have to pay for their own training.
Since the death of my Grandmother, my mom and her siblings have worked closely with their attorneys on setting up a fund specifically to help our local volunteer firefighters. I know some of my readers are not from this area, but I also know there are many who are. I'd really encourage everyone to please check out the