Texas Wildfires: How to Get Information and Assistance

Posted on 04/22/24 by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo

Wildfires have left widespread devastation in Texas, destroying property and leading to loss of life.

The flames have impacted the Texas Panhandle region and beyond, leaving many residents homeless. Smoke from the fires has impacted air quality on an even broader scale.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for several counties and directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to deploy additional state emergency response resources. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it will help those impacted by the disaster, including businesses and property owners, by offering low-interest loans.

AARP has compiled a list of government, nonprofit and other aid. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

Financial assistance

U.S. Small Business Administration: Texas businesses and residents impacted by the wildfires are eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans from the SBA. Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to fix wildfire-related damage. The SBA will provide additional loans for property improvements to minimize future damage.

Homeowners may apply for disaster loans of up to $500,000 to fix or replace homes. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $100,000 if personal property, such as vehicles, was damaged. Apply online and get additional information at SBA.gov/disaster.

FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website has information on disaster-related assistance, such as grants to survivors.

Texas Farm Bureau: Farmers and ranchers with unreimbursed losses resulting from the wildfires can seek financial assistance through the Texas Panhandle Wildfire Relief Fund.

Emergency alerts and updates

FEMA.gov: Download the FEMA app to sign up for real-time emergency alerts from the National Weather Service.

Local alerts: Sign up for community alerts in your area, such as at amarilloalerts.com, which has guidance on preparing for evacuation and avoiding smoke inhalation. Officials may also alert you via the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert, which don’t require you to sign up.

Texas A&M Forest Service: The Texas A&M Forest Service’s website has the latest information on the status of wildfires. The site includes the location of active and contained wildfires and areas where risk is high due to weather. It also lists areas subject to burn bans as well as safety tips for protecting your community, home, ranch and wildlands. The agency posts updates on social media, including its Facebook page.

Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM): The agency has a disaster portal dedicated to the wildfires, and Texans can also get up-to-date information on the organization’s Facebook page. If you have suffered losses to your residential, commercial or agricultural property, report it using TDEM’s online tool.

NOAA Weather Radio: Tune in to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio stations for information on current and upcoming weather in your area.

Weather forecasts: Visit the U.S. National Weather Service’s website (weather.gov) and enter your city and state, or zip code.

Local news outlets: Monitor your television and radio stations for the latest information and instructions from emergency personnel.

Non-emergency help

211 Texas: For assistance with a variety of non-emergency, disaster-related needs, such as shelter and food, dial 211. The information is also available online at 211texas.org.

Wildfire safety tips

TexasReady.gov: The Texas Health and Human Services agency offers guidance on how to prepare for disasters, including wildfires. Learn how to create a kit of essential supplies and map out an evacuation route.

Ready.gov: Wildfires: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides advice on how to prepare for a wildfire, how to stay safe, and returning home afterward.

Texas General Land Office: This site has guidance on preparing and protecting ranches and property from wildfires, plus evacuation information.

Center for Food Security & Public Health: Find information about protecting livestock from wildfires.

Road conditions and transportation updates

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT): If smoke is in the area where you are driving, be sure to close your windows and air vents to help prevent exposure, the Texas Department of Transportation advises. TxDOT’s website, DriveTexas.org, provides a map detailing current highway conditions and closures. You may also check conditions by calling TxDOT at 1-800-452-9292.

Wildfire map: The Texas A&M Forest Service’s incident viewer provides locations of active wildfires within the impacted region.

Reporting a power outage

Utility companies: Wildfires can damage power lines and the electrical grid. Report outages to your utility company. The Public Utility Commission of Texas provides a map detailing electrical outages and offers advice for navigating a power outage.

Food and housing assistance after a disaster

211 Texas: Dial 211 to be connected to resources for emergency shelter and food, or go online to 211 Texas.

Texas Food Banks: The Texas Department of Agriculture provides a list of food banks statewide, or enter your zip code at the Feeding America website to find food nearby. The High Plains Food Bank also helps wildfire victims.

Housing help: The nonprofit American Red Cross offers free shelter to those affected by the wildfires. Find open shelters near you, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. The Salvation Army provides disaster-related assistance, including food and shelter.

Medications: If you evacuated quickly and don’t have your prescriptions, visit RxOpen.org, for information on open pharmacies in areas impacted by disasters.

Mental health resources

Disaster Distress Helpline: For assistance with mental health concerns, call or text the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s toll-free helpline at 800-985-5990. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to all U.S. residents experiencing emotional distress due to disasters, including wildfires. Help is available in multiple languages.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 to be connected with free and confidential support. This website also has an online chat feature.

Editor's note: This guide was originally published on March 6, 2024, and it has been updated with additional information.

Michelle Tuccitto Sullo is a states writer and editor for AARP. She previously served as managing editor of the Hartford Business Journal in Connecticut and has worked for the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Law Tribune and New Haven Biz.

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This story is provided by AARP Texas. Visit the AARP Texas page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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