Most Losses in Texas Panhandle Fires Are Uninsured

March 16, 2006

Wildfires in the Texas panhandle have blackened hundreds of thousands of acres and leveled ranch houses and barns in its path. Unfortunately, most of the destruction including ranch land and cattle has been uninsured, according to the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT).

Homes are few and far between in the wide open range land of the Texas panhandle, but at least two dozen homes have been destroyed, including a $600,000 ranch house in Wheeler County that was insured.

David Haynes, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company agent in Gray County, credited the McLean volunteer fire department with saving his father’s home.

“The four firemen were surrounded by fire,” said Haynes. “All of the barns, storage buildings and sheds went up in flames, but they saved the house.”

The ICT says the insured property losses are estimated at $3 million.

Oran Burton, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company agent in Stinnett, said the worst losses have been all of the grass, wood fences and cattle. The area has had very little rainfall.

“We had our first rainfall in six months today,” said Burton. “It was a sprinkle.”

Burton said twenty to thirty mile per hour winds have rekindled several fires in the area and blown sand over what has been burned making much of the area resemble a desert.

Due to a prolonged drought, many ranchers in the area have depended on hay that they’ve had to purchase to feed cattle. In several counties ranchers have lost cattle and their hay. As many as 10,000 head of cattle may have died in the fires at an estimated loss of $6 to $10 million.

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