In small towns all across West Texas, one group of workers has earned the love and admiration of the townspeople: the firefighters who work around the clock to save their homes.
While there is much sadness and devastation for many families, there is also great joy. In all, some 300 families have lost all they own, but hundreds more homes are still standing because of the courageous men and women in the fire service who risked their own lives to save the homes of strangers.
In Mineral Wells, Texas, local residents gather outside the American Red Cross shelter each night to cheer their heroes as they return from the field.
"The guys send us a text message to let us know they're on their way home," said Tina Draper, American Red Cross shelter manager. "That's when the community begins to assemble. When the guys pull up on their trucks, they're so exhausted and covered in soot, but they perk right up when they see all of the people lined up to cheer them on."
Inside the shelter, drawings of support from local school kids line the walls, and the smell of good southern home cooking wafts through the air.
"We just want to do all we can to help these firefighters through this difficult time," said Draper. "The Red Cross, all the local churches, the schools, everyone has been working side by side to make sure that every family and every firefighter is cared for."
The Red Cross and the community appear to have made their mark, as the firefighters now refer to this shelter as the "Red Cross Ritz."
Fire crews staying at the Red Cross shelter in Mineral Wells, Texas, have been deployed from Southlake, Watauga, Keller, Grapevine, Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, Euless and Bedford.
How you can help The Red Cross depends on financial donations to get help to people affected by disasters. Please consider making a donation today to help to those in need. Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.