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In the wake of the fire, monetary and material donations descended in an avalanche on Fritch. Nearly $1 million has been donated to organizations helping the relief efforts, according to agency reports.
“The initial response was great,” said Julie Winters, Hutchinson County United Way executive director. “I have been amazed.”
So many in kind donations were received in the first week after the disaster that organizers had to ask that residents stop donating clothing and shoes until the need could be assessed.
Hutchinson County United Way has collected $525,000 in donations from residents and from companies such as Agrium Inc. and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., which each donated $25,000. Other large donations to the United Way include:
$150,000, Phillips 66
$75,000, Payne Foundation
$50,000, International Union of Operating Engineers
$20,000, Amarillo National Bank
$10,000, Pioneer Natural Resources
Comedian Ron White, a Fritch native, has scheduled a benefit show Aug. 8 in Wichita Falls to help with the relief efforts.
Amarillo Area Foundation activated the Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund and began collecting funds to be given to Hutchinson County’s Disaster Relief Committee, appointed by the Hutchinson County Commissioners Court, for distribution. The fund was first created in 2006 to help counties with the effects of the wild fires of that year.
Hutchinson County Judge Faye Blanks said, have been used for cleanup and roll off boxes for debris, and the rest will be invested in long term stability and infrastructure projects. The committee decided it will help residents who lost septic tanks in the blaze, and contractors will be allowed to inspect properties and submit bids for the work.
The committee has received 28 applications for assistance so far.
The foundation also paid for an intern to assist Hutchinson County Disaster Relief Committee process applications and coordinate with contractors.
Many of the properties lost and damaged by the fire are in the Lake Meredith Harbor Property Owner’s Association. By regulation, residents who owed dues would not be eligible to receive assistance from the committee. In response, a group operating anonymously as Operation: Angels Undercover gathered enough money to pay for 17 families’ past due fees and have plans to assist even more, a spokesperson for the group said.
The Salvation Army is using the $110,000 it raised to help families with housing needs.
“We are being very good stewards with the money we have,” Salvation Army spokeswoman Catherine Meck said.
The Salvation Army, Hutchinson County United Way and Amarillo Area Foundation are using donations to help fire victims make down payments on new homes and pay rent.
But more is still needed.
Steven Pair, former executive director of the Texas Panhandle Chapter of the American Red Cross, estimated the organization would spend more than $320,000 in Fritch and would probably only recoup about $200,000 of that through donations.
Winters is doing her best to encourage continued donations to United Way.
The organization has received more than 90 applications from families who need permanent housing, Winters said.
Overall, donations have reached nearly $1 million, about a quarter of the latest estimate of the total disaster costs. More than 200 homes were incinerated by the flames, another 100 plus smaller structures like barns and garages were lost, as well as more than 100 passenger cars and 22 recreational vehicles.
Total property loss is estimated at $3.8 million based on before and after value assessments of 239 structures, Joe Raper, Chief Appraiser at the Hutchinson County Appraisal District said. Sheds and smaller structures were not included in the assessment, he said.