The relief effort for survivors of the Labor Day wildfires around Spicewood has increased both speed and effectiveness, thanks in large part to support from generous volunteers and donors from Blanco County.
More than 50 homes were destroyed in the complex of fires, about half of them uninsured. Government aid has begun arriving, but was delayed by the early focus on Bastrop at the expense of smaller areas.
“No matter how big the disaster, if it was your house that burned, it’s the biggest catastrophe in the world to you,” said relief manager Wyndy Penner.
“We’re not trying to get special favors for these folks, just the same help that’s pouring into the more famous areas.”
Travis County’s Precinct Three County Commissioner Karen Huber visited the assistance center to check on needs. She said that, unfortunately, counties in Texas are allowed few resources suitable for disaster assistance, but promised to try to use her leverage to motivate other agencies to deliver the greater help at their disposal.
A major need has been for tools. Many uninsured residents were working people — carpenters, plumbers, sheetrockers — who need their tools to earn a living, but had to leave them behind when told they had only minutes, and sometimes seconds, to get out. Even second-hand tools are appreciated by those eager to get back to earning their own living.
Clothing has been a bright spot for burned-out residents who lost everything except what they happened to be wearing that Sunday afternoon. Clothes poured in and filled the first floor of the borrowed office building turned warehouse. Response has been so great that the request for more clothing has been turned off.
“Some of the clothes have been very nice, some even new, with tags still on,” said Brenda Wilson, who made the short trip from Blanco County to help sort items in the warehouse.
“Work clothes suitable for clearing homesites are in big demand, and shoes are hard to find in the right sizes. And some of the things for babies and little children are just adorable.”
Now the need is turning toward more substantial items, like furniture, appliances, and household furnishings, as residents manage to find temporary housing to stay in while they begin the long rebuilding process. In many cases, those interim quarters are unfurnished, while all the family’s household goods are piles of ashes.
Those with goods to share with their neighbors can take them to the temporary warehouse at 5101 Hidden Creek at Highway 71 in Spicewood. It’s open Monday through Saturday, from 10 to 5. Volunteers willing to help sort (or do other chores) should call the assistance center at 512-660-5083 or -5084 to schedule a shift.