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Operation Blessing Brings Hope and Aid as Texas Wildfire Victims Suffer Big Losses

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In the Texas Panhandle, the largest wildfire in the state's history has consumed roughly 500 structures, and cattle ranchers have been especially hit hard, possibly losing thousands from their herds.

The blaze is only about 37 percent contained. The Smokehouse Creek Fire has already claimed two lives and destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings, consuming nearly 1.3 million acres. Many residents have had to flee for their lives.

"I had to leave and then had to drive through fire to get out of there. I was going to die," said homeowner Stacy Mcfol.

Satellite images have captured the billows of smoke from the blazes fueled by high winds and dry conditions. The fires moved so fast that ranchers had little time to get their cattle to safety. Thousands of cows were killed. In Skellytown, workers had the grim task of moving dozens of dead animals.

"We have about 1,000 cattle, as you can see behind us, we're picking up 'deads' today," said Chance Bowers, X-Cross-X Ranch operator. "By the time it's all said and done we're going to have lost probably 200 to 250 head, and that's just cows. We were right in the middle of calving season. I've spent the last 15 years building this herd up and you can lose it overnight. But we've been very blessed, very fortunate that, that we we've only got to lose 200, you know," Bowers said.

The fires also spread through the small panhandle town of Borger, Texas. Pastor William Shields who leads Bethel Temple had to house some of his congregants at the church when the fires got close.

"They had to actually live up in our fellowship hall for a few days while they were getting everything straight, what happened with their house and everything," Shields said. "What we originally felt about it was that we've gotta find a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus and, and to be the church in this situation and not just come to church," he said.

CBN's Operation Blessing is working with several churches in the area to get basic needs to people including food and water, hygiene kits, EMS care kits, rakes, shovels, clean-up supplies, clothing, batteries, and emergency meal kits.

Pastor Shields says Operation Blessing is showing the love of Jesus to those who are suffering. 

"It means a lot to have support of different organizations that come, like Operation Blessing and things like this, to come and support, you know, these communities in this time of need and this time of devastation you could call it. And it just goes to show that, you know, people do care, and people do want to help," he said. 

Officials have yet to determine the cause of the fire, but some residents have filed suit against a local power company claiming downed power lines played a part. Meanwhile, firefighters are hoping rain in the forecast this week will give them the upper hand against the flames. 

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About The Author

Wendy Griffith

Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, Wendy co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. ( Wendy started her career at CBN on Capitol Hill, where she was the network’s Congressional Correspondent during the Impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. She then moved to the Virginia Beach headquarters in 2000 to concentrate on stories with a more