In small towns all across West Texas, one group of workers has earned the love and admiration of the townspeople; and that’s 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 area 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 crew staying at the Red Cross shelter in Mineral Wells, Texas have been deployed from Southlake, Watauga, Keller, Grapevine, DFW Airport, Euless and Bedford, all in the DFW Metroplex.
Story and video by Anita Foster, American Red Cross, Dallas, Texas