Salvation Army supporting communities affected by Texas wildfires

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Salvation Army mobile feeding units are providing round-the-clock assistance to firefighters battling wildfires in Texas. The worst fires are still burning in Bastrop County, about 30 miles east of the state’s capital city, Austin. Two people are known to have been killed and more than 600 homes have been lost in the county, along with another 400 in the rest of the state. Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a press conference Sept. 6 that fires have brought destruction across more than 100,000 acres over the previous week. At least 57 wildfires continue to burn in 17 counties across Texas.

According to Major John Carter, Austin area commander for The Salvation Army and incident commander for the central Texas wildfire operation, approximately 600 firefighters will be working to control the two major wildfires in and around the city of Bastrop. The Salvation Army’s main responsibility at this stage is to provide hydration, snacks and other items to first-responders and firefighters.

Salvation Army mobile feeding units and crews have been mobilized from Kerrville, Waco, Temple and San Antonio, in addition to two units from the Austin area. Each mobile kitchen, with the capacity to provide up to 2,500 meals per day, will stay on alert as long as needed and will be relocated as necessary. The Salvation Army units are currently stationed at Camp Swift and at the City of Bastrop Convention Center. Working closely with the local group Texas Baptist Men, The Salvation Army is making plans to ensure it has capacity to feed all the firefighters.

As the wildfires continue to spread and threaten additional communities, Salvation Army locations currently beyond the immediate area are on full alert.

“It’s a very distressing situation and our role is to provide whatever assistance we can, for as long as we can,” said Major Chris Flanagan, The Salvation Army’s Greater Houston area commander. “Our primary goal is to provide assistance and support to first responders in the affected areas, as well as to the individuals and families that have directly been affected. We are prepared to operate our canteens as long as we are needed.”

Another wildfire in and around Possom Kingdom, 90 miles west of Fort Worth, is now under control. Salvation Army units from Sherman, Fort Worth, Dallas and McKinney returned home Sept. 4, having served for three days.

Since the start of the wildfire season, Texas fire crews have responded to a record 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned 3.6 million acres. The Salvation Army is committed to providing refreshment, relief and counselling both to responders, and those directly affected by the devastating wildfires.

The small community of Spicewood, Texas, lost 68 homes to a wildfire. The community has rallied and converted a church into a relief center from where shelter, food and assistance are being offered to people who have lost everything.

When the community requested help from The Salvation Army it was not for food or shelter, but for emotional and spiritual support. Salvation Army staff from the Austin Area Command are heading to Spicewood to spend time ministering to those whose lives have been turned upside down.

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Compiled from reports by Philip Burn

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