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Texas struggles to contain one of the largest wildfires in the state's history

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Texas is still struggling to contain the largest wildfires in the state's history, and we're saying wildfires because several are still burning. The Smokehouse Creek fire is the biggest one. Thousands of livestock have been killed by fires that have already burned more than a million acres of land in the Texas Panhandle, many of which belong to ranchers like Kristen Moudy's husband. Like many others, he's been working around the clock to help neighbors who've been affected, and so has she.

She is the economic development director for the city of Wheeler. She manages relief efforts and has done so in past wildfire disasters, and she was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk to us. Could you just talk a little bit about what I would see if I were where you are?

KRISTEN MOUDY: (Laughter) You would see people that have lost everything. They've lost ranches, they may have lost their homes, they may have lost cattle. And yet through that, they're standing in the ashes pulling themselves together and saying, come on guys, let's do this. We've got it. And you're finding that those people that you would deem have lost everything are the same people that are turning around and saying, what can I do for you?

MARTIN: Can you just describe - do you mind if I ask, like, how about your ranch?

MOUDY: It literally missed our ranch by a mile, so we do have neighbors that have lost. My husband's a day worker, and he works through Wheeler and Hemphill County. So a lot of the ranches that we're seeing have been affected. We personally are OK, but we are putting our efforts and resources in helping our friends and neighbors.

MARTIN: What do you need right now? Like, what is it that people need?

MOUDY: What we're seeing across and what you're probably seeing on social media is people banding together to send us hay so that we can feed what livestock we do have remaining. A lot of times people don't realize the magnitude of what we've lost, all of our grassland and ranching structures that are used to feed these animals. And so that's why you're seeing just truckloads of hay and people hauling it from all over to come, because one truckload of hay with so many bales often can just feed one certain section or one certain part of the ranch. And so that's only for one day. And we don't have grass to continue to feed these animals. And so it's going to take a ton of trucks.

MARTIN: Well, this is super helpful for people who aren't, you know, familiar with what is needed there. How are you holding up?

MOUDY: I'm OK. Everybody calls me the Energizer Bunny, and I think it's just because I know that if we were in this situation, people would come out of the woodworks to help us. And they are. They're still helping us. Even though we were not affected by the fires, we are affected because this is our community, this is our livelihood, this is where we work. And so the outpouring of love and support we've received has been phenomenal. And I do want to speak on our volunteer fire departments, because I also feel like it makes a critical point of who's helping us, too. The people that are protecting us so that the fires don't come are also the ones that are losing things of their own.

MARTIN: Is there any federal response that you're seeing?

MOUDY: The federal response that we're going to see is going to take a lot of time to fill out paperwork and fill out the things that have to be done in order to see it. And so we are taking care of each other as we need, because the needs are great and the needs are right now. And so that will come as we can, but FEMA's not feeding the cattle (laughter).

MARTIN: That's Kristen Moudy. She is the economic development director for the city of Wheeler. Kristen, thanks so much for talking to us.

MOUDY: Thank you.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

State investigators have concluded that the record-setting Smokehouse Creek fire was started by power lines. And Xcel Energy, a gas and electric company that operates in the area, said its equipment appears to have sparked the fire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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