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Texas Panhandle Wildfire Becomes 2nd Largest in State History

Gov. Greg Abbott declared an emergency declaration on Tuesday for 60 counties as the Smokehouse Creek Fire continued to spread. As of 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the fire had burned 850,000 acres and was just 3 percent contained.

Wildfires continued to burn Wednesday, Feb. 28, through portions of the Texas Panhandle as hot and dry conditions were expected to persist, and the largest fire grew to half a million acres making it the second-largest wildfire in state history.

Multiple evacuations were ordered and Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster declaration Tuesday for 60 counties as emergency crews attempted to contain the fires. The declaration allowed for state resources to be deployed to areas fighting the fires.

One of the largest fires crews have been battling has been named the “Smokehouse Creek Fire” in Hutchinson County, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The blaze began Monday.

As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the fire was an estimated 850,000 acres and 3 percent contained, according to the service, meaning the fire about doubled in size in roughly 14 hours.

At this size, it’s the second-largest wild fire in Texas history, according to historical data. The largest was the 907,245-acre “East Amarillo Complex” fire in March 2006. The third largest was a 1988 fire called “Big Country” that grew to 366,000 acres.

“Fire behavior has moderated with decreased winds, but it is still actively burning,” a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, said.

Evacuations had begun in towns including Canadian and Glazier.

The “Windy Deuce Fire” in Moore County, which was estimated to be 90,000 acres and 25 percent contained as of 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.

This was the second wildfire in the county in recent days, according to the service. Another fire which grew to about 4,000 acres was 100 percent contain

This fire prompted evacuations of Double Diamond, Arrowhead Addition, Maverick Village, Alibates, McBride, Mullinaw and Harbor Bay as it shut down Texas State Highway 136 on both sides of towns.

The 30,000-acre “Grape Vine Creek Fire” in Gray County was estimated to be 60 percent contained as of 10:20 p.m. Tuesday. A voluntary evacuation order for in and around Pampa was lifted Tuesday night.

The “Juliet Pass Fire” in Armstrong County was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday night after growing to 2,963 acres.

Officials haven’t given a definite cause for the cluster of blazes but the region has experienced unseasonably warm temperatures, dry conditions and gusty winds.

Crew from all over the state are traveling to the Panhandle to help extinguish the fires, including 15 firefighters with the Fort Worth Fire Department.

The Fort Worth crew could be in the Panhandle as long as two weeks, according to a post the department made on Facebook.

“These specialized and highly trained crews are joining hundreds of other firefighters working around the clock to contain these incredibly dangerous fires,” the post said. ”Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents affected by wildfire and for the safety of the crews.”

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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