Wildfires in Texas Cause Millions in Losses, Costliest Ever

Wildfires that broke out earlier this year in the Texas panhandle caused a record amount of damage, according to a new report.

Economists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service estimated that the fires caused about $123 million in agricultural losses, adding that it’s possible those losses could continue to increase.

In total, more than 1.2 million acres were burned in the Texas panhandle over a three-week period. The fires started on February 26 and ran through mid-March. The fires destroyed the land throughout the region, which is where many ranches are located.

Those ranches and farms are integral to providing corn, beef and dairy to the rest of Texas.

Factored into the estimated cost of the fires is the death of 12,000 cattle and also infrastructure repairs that are necessary to the ranches that sustained damage.

According to the report, the cattle deaths alone amounted to about $27 million in costs. Another $1 million is attributed to other things that are related to their death, such as disposing of their bodies.

This has become a significant concern, as cattle prices have risen quite dramatically in recent times.

Infrastructure repair costs have been estimated at roughly $68.7 million, according to the report. Grazing lands that were damaged came in at a cost of roughly $26 million.

In a statement, the director of the AgriLife Extension, Rick Avery, said:

“AgriLife Extension continues to be committed in providing resources needed for landowners, livestock producers and individuals impacted from this historic wildfire.

“The recovery process will be ongoing and AgriLife Extension agents and specialists will continue to provide support. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of our dedicated agent network and industry partners.”

In the same statement, David Anderson, who works at Bryan-College Station as the AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist, said:

“These loss estimates are likely to continue to grow as more details emerge as the wildlife risks remain high this spring.”

DeDe Jones, a risk management specialist who works with AgriLife Extension in Amarillo, added that they expect to see “a significant increase” in how much it costs to replace fencing, as the materials that are needed for the job continue to increase in cost.

Jones said that the cost to rebuild fencing is estimated between $3 to $4 per foot, “depending on the type of fencing and the type of country.”

The report pointed out that agents with AgriLife Extension’s Disaster Assessment Recovery unit are still providing affected farmers with resources to recover from the wildfires.

This includes agents doing field assessments, and providing livestock feed and hundreds of bales of hay.

Monty Dozier, the DAR program director, commented:

“Our agents have been working tirelessly to make sure needs are fulfilled. We also want to thank those throughout Texas and out of state who have donated. Their support has been overwhelming.”

Wildfires are nothing new to Texas, but conditions are seemingly getting much more ideal for them to spread, as the state continues to face drought conditions.