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High School Group Makes Blankets for Bastrop

A local group of high school students has made it their group project to make blankets for the Blankets for Bastrop Project.  It made no difference that most of them didn’t know how to knit, either.  With the donated yarn and needles, they jumped right in, given the opportunity to help out.

When I brought in the donated yarn, all the girls spent their lunch hour with me learning to knit.  We have met at lunch several times now.  They are knitting individual squares ranging in size from 6 to 10 inches.  they knit one, turn it in, pick another yarn, and start knitting another one.  Some are slow knitters, some are quick.  A few are natural knitting prodigies.  It’s nice to see them come together, to sit around and talk (which they would do anyway.)  I love to catch one student showing a technique to another.  Or the look when one girl figures out that if she combines knits and purls, she can create all kinds of patterns.

There’s also a little friendly competition in the works now..  The one who knits the most squares gets a handmade and decorated bag which they all love.

Pet Rescues from the Texas Wildfires

Cat #3 recuperating in his kennel.

I promised we’d talk about pets, and that most of it was good.  And it is.

Awesome First Responders

First of all, major kudos to the first responders of this fire.  When it first started, Bastrop Fire Department and several volunteer fire departments were the first to go out.  As it quickly spread on that windy day, more and more response teams were sent in.  These men and women did an incredible job of trying to contain the perimeter of the fire, save houses and structures within the fire, evacuate people and pets, and save pets left at home.

Many homeowners were away from their homes when the evacuation notices were sent out and were not allowed back in to rescue their pets.  The pets were not left to fend for themselves.  First Responders went house to house, when able, checking for pets and  rescuing them.  When not able, or if duty called them elsewhere, they left food and water and opened gates and doors so they could escape.  Some homeowners have reported coming home to find a wide piece of metal pulled from a fence, a chain cut off a gate and propped open, and even doors busted out and windows broken.

This mama dog was found by rescue workers with her puppy(the little bundle next to the bowls) in the middle of a closed HWY 21. Someone had let her out of wherever she was and she managed to get her puppy to a safe place. They had no injuries, she is very happy (note tail), and puppy is doing well.

Medical Treatment and Housing

As they were rescued, injured animals were crated and taken to local veterinary clinics, mobile vet clinics, and shelters.  As this was happening, and as the main shelter began to fill up, it too had to be evacuated because the fire began to threaten that area and smoke was blowing into the kennels.  Already well into evening, shelters and rescue groups from Austin assembled and convoyed out to Bastrop County to evacuate those animals from the shelter to Austin where they would be well out of danger.  Large animals were rounded up as best they could be, loaded onto trailers and housed en masse in rodeo arenas or on volunteers’ property.

All in all, there were a lot of animals being moved around, but their safety and well-being were the top priority.  The clinics scrambled and stayed open late,taking in all kinds of animals, triaging them, accepting volunteer workers from the community to walk and clean uninjured dogs and cats, and putting out phone calls for assistance to trained animal technicians and veterinary assistants.  Several veterinarians and veterinary technicians spent the night at clinics or with coworkers because their neighborhoods had been evacuated or their houses lost.  Yet they kept on working

The most common injury seen was burned paws.  Nearly every animal had its feet wrapped for three to four days.  The severe burns required several days of bandages, and an unwrapping and debriding of dead tissue daily.  These animals stayed on a pain killer for most of the time, many not able to walk or put weight on their feet.  They are still recuperating, while waiting for their families to come find them.

This kitty had severely burned paws, other burns, and sizzled whiskers, but was otherwise in good shape. She was adopted by a rescue worker from Katy, TX.

Lost and Found

Many, many pets were able to escape the fire altogether but have not yet been reunited with their owners.  And thus, we come to the wonders of crowd-sourcing and social media.  Several citizens took it upon themselves to start websites and Facebook pages to provide a place for owners and rescuers to cross-post the animals they were looking for and working on. The most comprehensive site is Wildfire Pet Rescue.  It is clearly divided into Lost pets and Found pets, and also maintains a list of all the other Facebook and Shelter links at the top of the page.

The cat that I ended up fostering had moderate burns on his rear pads and minimal burns on his front pads.  He is sweet, gentle, and always takes his medicine well.  I try to call him Cat Three because I don’t want to confuse him with his real name.  He doesn’t seem to mind, but he pretty much just goes along with everything and stays quiet.   It hurts him to walk, so he doesn’t move around much, but he is doing better everyday.  I hope that he will be reunited with his true owner because he seems to be healing physically faster than he is emotionally.

Another publicity picture of Three.

Countless cats and dogs have been rescued and are staying at veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or foster homes all around Central Texas.  If you have lost a pet in the fires, the chances are very good that your animal is out there, being taken care of.  The only problem is that he or she could be any of several dozen places.  The best thing to do is keep looking and posting on any of the threads and go to each and every shelter and vet clinic in the area – over and over again.  Keep looking.  Bastrop is filled with many humanitarians volunteering time and supplies to keep your pet as happy and healthy as he can be until reunited with his original family.

There are still many animals from the wildfires that are still available for adoption or fostering.

Flyer

I just finished making a flyer that anyone can print out and post.  (Go to the Resources tab at the top.)  Tomorrow I plan on making copies and taking them around to our community banks, churches, fabric stores, etc.  You should too!

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Bastrop Fire Totals

Bastrop County OEM (link at right) released new numbers today for the Bastrop Complex Fire. Incredible, but not surprising devastation. They calculate the fire to have now burned 34,000 acres and destroyed 875 homes.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss pets. (More good news than bad.)

Highway 71

Highway 71

I drove through Bastrop this morning.  I didn’t want to cause any extra trouble for all the first responders that have been working so tirelessly through all of this, but since Hwy 71 was open, I thought I’d see for myself what it looked like.  It was depressing, but not as much as I thought it would be.  This is probably because the burned trees and ashes just look like they are covered with a dark snow.

All of the entrances to every subdivision or private road were guarded by a police officer or state trooper requiring ID to enter, which is how it should be.  As much as I want to see what everything looks like, I think these families should be allowed to deal with their losses and grief in private, without gawkers.

In the meantime, I snapped these pictures.  To do so, I set my shutter speed on 400 ISO, rolled down the window and snapped while I drove, not looking into the camera at all.  Of all the pictures I took, these are the ones good enough to make the cut.

And just for scale, here is a photo from the Austin American Statesman showing Lake Bastrop and highway 21.  It does not show the damage on or south of 71.

 

 

Blankets for Bastrop

It’s been not a whole week since the devastating fires broke out in Bastrop Texas.  To date, they have obliterated 30,000 acres andover 500 homes while they burned a swath of land 25 miles long by 20 miles wide.  Many, many families have lost everything in the fires.

We want to help by providing handmade blankets to those families in need.  Whether it’s just to literally survive the next few weeks, or it is to begin to build and furnish a new life, soft and warm handmade blankets help to ease the strain.

You can help.  Click any of the links above.  Even if the only ‘crafty’ thing you can do is use a pair of scissors,you can help.  We have opportunities for knitters, crocheters, quilters, and ‘cutters’.  If you can put together a team, or an old-fashioned sewing bee, and complete a whole blanket, that would be awesome.  If it’s only you, you can contribute to a long-distance group blanket or a ‘virtual’ sewing bee.

You can be the person who donates the yarn or fabric.  You can be the person who cuts it out.  You can be the person who sews the blocks or knits the strips or crochets the squares.  You can be the person who puts those together.  You can be the person who lines and quilts the finished blanket.  You can be the person who washes, dries, and folds the blankets.  You can be the person who mails or delivers the blankets.  You can be the person who helps rebuild someone’s home.  You can be the person who helps them sleep better at night.

Our goal is both short and long-term.  We want to provide for families in immediate need.  Fortunately it won’t be that cold in Texas for a while.  But when it does get cold, we want our neighbors to find comfort in a blanket that someone put their heart into making.