Farwell man raising funds for Panhandle fire victims

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

The land Brandon Embry farms was untouched by the grassfires that charred an estimated 750,000 acres of Texas Panhandle land in mid-March.

Yet, the Farwell wheat and milo farmer has decided to donate some of his farming supplies to help rebuild what the fires consumed. And he is urging others in the small town that borders New Mexico to do the same.

“I had some good used fencing supplies in a barn,” Embry, 26, said. “I decided to donate them.”

Embry planned to drive just his supplies to a rodeo arena in Pampa, Texas, where the Texas Farm Bureau is collecting materials for farmers and ranchers affected by the March grassfires. The fire that raged in Pampa was one of the most intense of 11 that erupted in the Texas Panhandle, according to the Associated Press.

Then, he decided to approach the owner of a Farwell hardware store for assistance.

Farwell Hardware owner Steve Meeks agreed to collect funds at his store for the purchase of additional fencing supplies. About $3,000 had been donated by community members, Meeks said on Saturday.

“I felt like it was my duty to help out. This is kind of a hometown deal,” Meeks said.

Eleven people were killed in the Texas Panhandle blazes. And about 10,000 head of livestock, including cows and horses, also perished, according to an estimate on the Texas Animal Health Commission Web site.

But problems plague ranchers whose livestock survived. About 700 miles of fencing was destroyed in the fires. Replacing a mile of fencing can cost up to $5,000, according to officials.

“I know what natural disasters can do to the agriculture industry,” said Meeks, who farmed for more than 20 years. “I don’t need to see (the damage) to feel how hard it can be.”

Meeks and Embry will accept donations, monetary or in kind, until April 1.

Modest about his role in the effort, Embry said he will drive more than 140 miles to Pampa to donate fencing supplies to the Farm Bureau.

Of his motivation, Embry said, “I just know I’d hate to be the one it affected.”