Jason Yarbrough, Oklahoma Baptists Disaster Relief (DR) director, reported 22 DR volunteers began working Wednesday, March 6, in cleanup and fire recovery in areas located in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

DR has been serving in Gage and other parts of Ellis County since wildfires spread through the area on Wed., Feb. 26. Yarbrough said volunteers delivered pallets of water and snacks to those affected by the fires. He said he is appreciative of the work DR volunteers regularly do to serve.

“As we prepare to deploy for the first time in 2024, let me start by saying thank you for being DR volunteers and being the hands and feet of Jesus!” Yarbrough said in an email to DR volunteers. “Let’s not lose sight of why we do what we do…. We meet the physical needs people are experiencing to see a door opened for us to speak into the spiritual needs they have. Remember, we do what we do with God’s help, for God’s glory!”

DR volunteers are still needed to serve on ash-out team and supporting units—such as laundry, showers, assessor and feeding units in the upcoming weeks.

“Things are fluid on deployment dates because of safety issues with the fire and how hot the ash is still,” Yarbrough added. “We are in contact with potentially 13-14 homeowners as of now.”

The Deputy Emergency Management director for Ellis County said Monday, March 4, that ash was still too hot for volunteers to enter.

Prior to the cleanup and fire recovery team departing, assistant DR director Ryan Deatherage said an Oklahoma Baptist DR assessor was in the field in Fargo along with chaplains who were ministering to those impacted by the fires.

“When we deploy, we will be staying at the Northwest Baptist Association Camp,” Deatherage said. “We have teams coming in the evening of Tue., March 5 that will begin work on Wednesday. Please be in prayer for all who have been affected by these fires and for those traveling to serve.”

These wildfires have devastated the landscape, impacted ranchers, and posed challenges for firefighters in both Oklahoma and Texas. Authorities urged the public to stay informed, take precautions, and support firefighting efforts during the critical situation.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, in Hutchinson County, the largest recorded wildfire in Texas history, had killed two people so far. By Sun., March 3, it had burned nearly 1.1 million acres (1,600 square miles) and was only 15 percent contained, the Texas A&M Forest Service said. It is only one of several fires driven by parched land and high winds in the two states.

Visit okdisasterhelp.org for more information or to donate.