Texas is burning.
After the driest, hottest summer in almost a century, high winds sparked fires across the state on Sunday. One wildfire alone has burned over 34,000 acres, destroyed 600 homes and caused the complete evacuation of 20 neighborhoods. Steiner Ranch, an Austin subdivision of nearly 5,000 homes, was completely evacuated for 48 hours. During that time, 24 homes burned to the ground, and approximately 30 more were severely damaged.
That’s just two of the fires. There are so many wildfires burning that at one point Monday, a leading source for fire-related news was unable to keep count. Thousands of Texans are without homes today. Countless more are facing major clean-up efforts in homes that may have been spared destruction but are still damaged. Two deaths have been confirmed.
As of this writing, the fires are still burning. The largest is only 15 percent contained. Others have been contained, or extinguished, but still have potential for flare-ups. We cannot yet know the extent of the damage our state will suffer. But we can know this: the clean-up and rebuilding effort will not be a one-week, one-month or even one-year event.
It’s a tough time for Texas, the state facing a lengthy rebuilding and recovery process. And Austin-area bloggers had a choice: watch, in horror, from the safety of our homes, feeling helpless; or be one of the voices calling for action.
We chose the latter.
Austin—and all of Texas, for that matter—is an amazing community of people looking out for each other. Within hours of the fires breaking out, charitable and religious groups across the city launched relief efforts. There are so many groups doing so many incredible things, it’s difficult to quantify.
And yet, many of us heard people say, “I want to help, but I don’t know where to start.”
With something of this magnitude, it is often difficult to figure out what the immediate needs are, and how to meet those needs. Austin-area bloggers decided that we could help raise and maintain awareness of ongoing relief efforts.
We have started a collective endeavor under the hash tag #TXBlogFireRelief. Together, we are gathering information about relief activities, and sharing what we learn with our social networks. We are writing, tweeting, and posting Facebook messages about relief efforts as we learn of them.
This week’s most immediate needs include food, water, and hygiene items for firefighters and evacuees. As the weeks go on, we expect that needs will change and there will be more focus on rebuilding and recovery. Our goal is to post updates throughout this week, and then follow up over the coming months (and years?) with new relief information.
Austin bloggers are also coming together to host a benefit and donation drive this weekend. The women of LiveMom.com, Free Fun in Austin, A Family Village and Mama on the Verge are hosting an Austin Family Brunch at Joe’s Place; other area bloggers are helping to promote (and planning to attend!). Everyone is invited for an affordable brunch and entertainment.
As bloggers, we have a unique voice in our communities, and we’ve embraced this opportunity to raise awareness for Texas wildfire relief efforts. We thank you, Bloggers Without Borders, for helping us spread the word.
Current needs include:
• Hygiene and household items, such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, bedding, and cleaning supplies, for evacuees.
• New (packaged) socks and underwear of all sizes for men, women, children.
• Individually-packaged snacks and energy bars, water, hand wipes, eye drops, and saline solution for the firefighters.
• Monetary donations.
For more information about the organizations that are meeting these needs and how you can get involved or make donations, please take a look at the Texas bloggers link-up for fire relief efforts. You can also follow the hashtag #TXBlogFireRelief on Twitter for up-to-date links and information.