A series of wildfires sweeping across hundreds of thousands of acres of the Texas Panhandle have prompted evacuations, cut off the power, and forced shutdowns of nuclear weapons facilities. Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties in the state due to the blazes.
The fires ignited as unseasonably warm temperatures, strong winds, and dry grass fueled the flames. Among the growing flames is the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County, which has quickly become the second-largest fire in the state’s history, burning 500,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Smokehouse Creek Fire is currently 0 percent contained.
— Incident Information – Texas A&M Forest Service (@AllHazardsTFS) February 28, 2024
Katlyn Butler, a cattle rancher on the Turkey Track in Stinnett, shared heartbreaking images and footage of the blazes yesterday as they moved cattle out of the way of the fire and pulled fire trucks into town to help save structures in the community.
Individuals in Canyon, Texas, have offered housing for livestock needing a place to stay, while others have poured out their hearts to those in the fire’s path.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the Texas Panhandle. To the firefighters and emergency personnel. The farmers and ranchers. And all those in the path of these devastating wildfires.
📷by Andy Holloway, Farm Bureau member and County Extension Agent for Texas A&M AgriLife… pic.twitter.com/lfhk8ohgJM
— Texas Farm Bureau (@TexasFarmBureau) February 27, 2024
Authorities are still unsure of what caused the blaze. As evacuation orders increased Tuesday, county and city officials took to social media livestream to try to answer questions from residents.
Meanwhile, Texas state Sen. Kevin Sparks said an evacuation order was issued for Canadian, a town of about 2,000 about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Amarillo. Later Tuesday, the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office urged anyone who remained in Canadian to shelter in place or at the high school gym because roads were closed.
The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings and fire danger alerts for multiple states across the country’s central region. A combination of strong winds exceeding 40 mph, elevated temperatures, low humidity, and the presence of dry winter vegetation collectively create favorable conditions for wildfires.
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Author: Heidi Crnkovic