EASTLAND COUNTY, Texas — With winds pushing flames rapidly across farm and ranch lands, hundreds of cows and other animals were injured or killed in this month’s fire across Eastland County.
Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine deployed their emergency response team [VET] and mobile vet clinics to meet the injured animals right where they were.
“This deployment was very different for us," said Dr. Wesley Bissett, director of the VET team. "It was very focused on the large animal side, the livestock side; again, completely understandable given the rural nature of the community, and the importance of the agricultural community to their economic base.”
Called to service by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, 15 A&M staff and volunteers associated with veterinary medicine spent approximately one week in Eastland County, treating over 100 burn victims, from cows to cats and dogs – even firefighters’ search and rescue dogs.
“We do maintain checks of their health throughout the day, but we also make sure the pads of their feet are not affected by the hot ground they're searching on," said Garrett Carr, program manager of the VET team.
The team were able to save lives and heal many animals. But there’s often tragedy that follows natural disasters like this.
“Certainly there were some we evaluated that could not be saved," Dr. Bissett said. "So then a kind and respectful end through euthanasia was our approach.”
The team worked in cooperation with Eastland County veterinarians and other agencies before finally returning to College Station. After 34 disaster deployments prior, these Aggie first responders were content to help a community like that of Eastland County, particularly the town of Carbon.
“The physical structures of Carbon may not have survived, but the community did," Bissett said. "They were there for each other and there to support us to do what we do, which is interesting. We go there to support them, and they help us.”