“OSU Hay Hotline, this is Dana, how may I help you?” says Dana Bay, Woodward County Oklahoma Extension agricultural educator, as she answers the Oklahoma Emergency Management issued cell phone. The caller on the other end reports he has nearly 200 bags of mineral supplement to donate to Oklahoma livestock producers who lost everything from their grassland, to livestock, to their homes in recent wildfires. The only catch is, he doesn’t have a way to transport the supplies.
Another caller from south Texas says he’s got 10,000 squares of Bermuda hay he’d like to donate and someone that will truck it but, understandably, asks if there’s assistance available for the fuel, as he can’t afford to transport that much hay such a long distance.
While offers of donations have been coming in for victims of the Rhea Fire, southwest of Woodward, Okla., and the 34 Complex Fire, north of Woodward, the transportation or fuel required to get those supplies to the eight drop-off sites is a little more difficult to come by.
“There’s still a need for some hay. But a lot of people have found a home for their cows or they’ve moved them to some graze-out wheat or they’ve located their own source for hay,” says Bay. “I still have several donations of hay sitting all across the country that need transportation, so trucking is a need for some of the donated hay that we can’t move.
“We’ve had people with donations call from as far away as New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin, but there is no way to get it here.”
While both wildfires are 100 percent contained, the Rhea Fire destroying 286, 196 acres while the 34 Complex Fires scorched 62, 481 acres, 75 homes were reduced to ashes.
“Our priority right now is getting those families back in stable homes and getting our fences back up,” says Bay.
Fencing supplies are another big need. Items such as barbed wire, t-posts and line posts. “Some of those line posts were wooden but I’m not sure many guys will go back with those,” Bay says.
“There's a huge loss in fences and a huge loss in cattle and the grass won't recover immediately as you know,” says Dewey County livestock producer Joe Farris, who lost 52-head of cattle in the Rhea Fire. “Depending on Mother Nature it will take probably two years with good weather for the grass to recover to the point that it's healthy again to stock at full capacity.”
Farris, like many ranchers, lost miles of fencing. “The fences cost about $10,000 per mile to replace and that’s if you hire it done. There are miles and miles of fencing.”
In addition to the monetary value of the barbed boundaries, is the time it will require to replace them.
“I have 8,000 acres but it’s not in a square — it’s 160 acres here, 160 there, 320 here. And not only that, you’ve got neighbors on all sides, so you’ve got to make contact and say what are you going to do? What are we going to do?” says Farris. “We just discover every day the complexity of getting it all organized. And you’re dealing with landlords in California, landlords all over the state, that you rent from.”
Another need is poly-stock tanks. “I had a gentleman at a meeting ask if anyone has offered any poly-stock tanks. ‘I lost like five,’ he said. So, there’s just some things like that you might not even think of that they need.”
Supplemental livestock feed and milk replacer for calves that lost their mothers are also in need.
Replacement pipes and solar panels for wells that melted in the fire, are another need, along with tires.
“I had a guy, who had a couple of days off drive his one-ton truck and gooseneck trailer from Fort Worth, Texas, all the way to Sallisaw, Okla., which is on I-40 kissing Arkansas. He picked up a load of hay that we had there, got in late that night, dropped the hay off at one of our drop sites and called me and said, ‘I'm staying here tonight and tomorrow night, what can I do for you tomorrow?’
“So he went to one of our drop sites, got loaded and started taking supplies out to some of our producers that don't have a way to come in and get it because they've lost their tractor or they've lost their trucks. At about the middle of the day he texts me asking where he could get a tire because he had a blowout on his trailer —unfortunately, some of the roads are really rough.”
Bay said she texted him to see how much the tire was so she could reimburse him, but he said the local tire shop did not charge him. “So some of our local businesses are stepping up, but they can't afford to keep replacing tires and doing that. They're going to reach a point where they have to stop, too.”
Rural volunteer fire departments also are in need. “Their fuel bills are just horrendous. Several of the local convenience stores have run charge accounts, and they're taking donations, so you can actually call them and say I want to donate to fire department X’s fuel bill,” says Bay. “A lot of our fire departments are volunteer fire departments and a lot of times when they go get gas it's coming out of that person's private pocket and not some government entity’s pocket.”
Another need is the removal of fencing that has been burned., Joe Farris, who is also senior vice president of Bank of Western Oklahoma, says a volunteer group of students spent the day removing ruined fencing from his property. He said that was a big help.
While OSU Extension does not handle any monetary donations, Bay said the following reputable organizations do and 100 percent of what is donated is given back to the person in need, rather than a percentage reserved for administrative costs:
Oklahoma Cattleman’s Foundation- http://www.okcattlemen.org, 405-235-4392, P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148. *
Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Foundation- http://www.okfarmingandranching.org, 2501 N. Stiles, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. *
Oklahoma Farmers Union Foundation- P.O. Box 24000, Oklahoma City, OK 73124.*
*If writing a check, make the check payable to the organization’s name with “Fire Relief” in the memo line.
To donate, volunteer or request agricultural-related products, contact the OSU Hay Hotline at 405-590-0106.
Educational resources detailing everything from the proper ways to dispose of dead livestock to post-wildfire home cleanup and post-disaster safety are available through each OSU Cooperative Extension county office, and online at http://www.oces.okstate.edu.