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Texas wildfires: Firefighter killed responding to blaze as state pleads for hay to stem cattle losses

The Smokehouse Creek fire which is now five times the size of New York City

Snow in area affected by Texas wildfires

Cool weather on Monday managed to help officials quell some of the fires as containment levels increased early this week, with two fires becoming completely contained.

But fire authorities warn that increased fire weather could hit the Texas Panhandle Thursday and Friday. At a news conference on Tuesday, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd pleaded with nearby residents not to start any new fires.

“Over 90% of wildfires are human caused,” he claimed. Strong winds and dry conditions this past weekend exacerbated flames, including the Smokehouse Creek Fire in northern Texas which remains only 44 per cent contained, according to the forest service. The fires began late last month.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned more than 1.3 million acres across the Texas Panhandle and destroyed 500 structures. It’s now the largest fire in the state’s history and one of the largest in the US’ history.

Authorities say it has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of cattle and forcing evacuations. Statewide, the fires have killed at least two civilians and one volunteer fire chief.

A lawsuit filed last week claims that the fires originated from an electric pole that wasn’t properly inspected, fell and started the blaze.


Texas cattle business will take years to recover

Cattle ranchers told CNN that they’re being forced to euthanize their animals as they suffer injuries from the blaze that’ll likely leave the cattle business struggling to recover for years.

Millions of Texas cattle live in the Panhandle, where some of the strongest wildfires took place.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 16:53

Dry weather making fire difficult to tackle

According to USA Today, warm, dry weather in the area has made the fires difficult to tackle but a cold front is expected to move into the Panhandle region on Monday.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 18:10

The following wildfires are currently being supported by emergency services

  • Windy Deuce Fire, Moore County: 144,206 acres, 55% contained
  • Grape Vine Creek Fire, Gray County: 34,882 acres, 60% contained
  • Magenta Fire, Oldham County: 3,297 acres, 85% contained
  • Roughneck Fire, Hutchinson County: est. 300 acres, 25% contained
  • Smokehouse Creek Fire, Hutchinson County: est. 1,076,638 acres, 15% contained
Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 19:45

Map of affected areas

The Texas Division of Emergency Management released a map showing the current fire trends in the state.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 20:19

'Have to be ready': Homeland secretary warns more extreme weather could be coming

US Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas expressed concern over the unprecedented scale of the fires in winter and said the country should be prepared for worse in the summer.

"More than a million acres have burned. And we are in winter, and this is the largest fire in Texas history," Mr Mayorkas said during an interview with CNN on Sunday.

"We, as a country and as a world, have to be ready for the increasing effects of extreme weather caused by climate change. It's a remarkable phenomenon, and it will manifest itself in the days to come, and we have to prepare for it now."

He said the federal government has devoted funds, equipment and personnel to assist with battling the fires.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 21:08

Another town evacuated as fires rage on

A small community was ordered to evacuate over the weekend as firefighters kept up efforts to stamp out the largest wildfire in state history while contending with new blazes.

Strong winds spread the flames further, prompting an evacuation order to be issued in Sanford, a town of a little more than 100 residents, according to the Amarillo office of the National Weather Service, which posted on X.

Residents began clearing affected property on Saturday, and by Sunday the extent of the loss began mounting.

A cluster of fires has burned more than 1,900 square miles (4,900 square kilometres) in rural areas surrounding Amarillo, including the largest blaze spilling into neighbouring Oklahoma.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 21:15

Humanitarian organisations helping victims of Texas fire

As firefighters battle against strong winds in their efforts to contain the unprecedented wildfires in the Texas Pandhandle, humanitarian organisations are pivoting their attention to victims who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the blazes.

Residents began clearing affected property on Saturday, and by Sunday the extent of the loss began mounting.

Julie Winters, the executive director for Hutchinson County United Way, said the organisation has heard estimates of over 150 homes being impacted in the county, noting that the fires extend to at least five other counties.

"We already know that a large group of people are uninsured who lost their homes. So without monetary assistance, it's going to be very hard for them to start back over," Ms Winters said.

About 70 families from Fritch, Texas, approached the organization on Friday during an event, but Ms Winters believes many others will come forward in the days and weeks ahead.

"Our goal is just for the long term of trying to get people back into shelters," Winters said.

A steady outpouring of donated clothing, water, and hot meals quickly overwhelmed one city in the affected area. By Sunday, the city of Borger urged people to redirect their donation efforts from food and water to clean-up supplies.

Monetary donations from people ranging from $25 to $500 have been critical for the Hutchinson County United Way Wildfire Relief Fund, which is dispersing proceeds to displaced families.

"I think sometimes what people don't understand in a small rural community is that there is no temporary housing," Ms Winters said. "We don't have real property like that and we don't even have hotels that can take care of those things."

Winters said the fires remind her of the similar devastating effects from the 2014 fire in Fritch when numerous families also lost their homes and were unable to return.

"How do you get people back into homes so that they can stay in our community and not have to move somewhere else?" Ms Winters said.


Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 21:45

SEE IT: Plane makes retardant drop on Smokehouse Creek Fire

A large airtanker makes a retardant drop on the eastern perimeter of the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 22:00

California sends its national guard to fight fires

Gavin Newsom, the state’s Democratic senator, made the announcement on X.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 22:15

Texas A&M Forest Service says one fire is 60 per cent contained

The Roughneck Fire is 60 per cent contained, the Texas A&M Forest Service announced on X. The fire is located in Hutchinson County and has spread to about 300 acres.

Firefighters continued suppression efforts overnight, officials said. Today, crews are focused on clearing the area of burning material and checking for heat.

Michelle Del Rey4 March 2024 22:30

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