Download Our Mobile App

Home CNN Deadly Texas wildfire torches 1 million acres – the largest blaze in state history – as more infernos rage out of control

Deadly Texas wildfire torches 1 million acres – the largest blaze in state history – as more infernos rage out of control

by Chanel Rowe
0 comment

Originally Published: 29 FEB 24 01:22 ET

Updated: 29 FEB 24 10:55 ET

By Joe Sutton, Steve Almasy, Holly Yan and Robert Shackelford, CNN

(CNN) — The Smokehouse Creek Fire has grown to more than 1 million acres in Texas, making it the largest fire on record in the state – surpassing the East Amarillo Complex fire in 2006. It is just 3% contained, fire officials said Thursday morning.

The fire has also burned at least 31,590 acres in Oklahoma as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Oklahoma Forestry Service.

The fire has cause widespred destruction in northern Texas, where 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship was killed by the inferno in Hutchinson County, her family said.

“The house was gone,” her grandson, Nathan Blankenship, said. “There was no way she could’ve gotten out.”

It is one of five catastrophic infernos ripping across the Texas Panhandle have killed at least one person and threaten to destroy more homes, cattle and livelihoods.

Despite the chance of light precipitation Thursday, dry air and ferocious winds are expected to return Friday and into the weekend – likely fueling the flames.

Latest developments

Power outages are a major concern as North Plains Electric Cooperative said it has “approximately 115 miles of line to rebuild.”

In Hemphill County alone, 400,000 acres are burned, scores of homes have been destroyed and thousands of cattle have died, Hemphill County AgriLife Extension agent Andy Holloway said. More than 85% of cattle in Texas are raised in the Panhandle, according to agricultural officials.

In addition to the mammoth Smokehouse Creek Fire, the Windy Deuce Fire in Texas has torched 142,000 acres and was 30% contained as of early Thursday morning.

The Grape Vine Creek Fire has charred 30,000 acres and is 60% contained.

The Magenta Fire has seared 2,500 acres and is 65% contained.

The 687 Reamer Fire has burned more than 2,000 acres and is 10% contained.

• Texas Gov. Greg Abbott authorized additional state resources to fight the blazes, including 94 fire fighting personnel, 33 fire engines and six air tankers.

• At least 13 homes have been destroyed in Oklahoma, a state emergency spokesperson told CNN. Gov. Kevin Stitt has activated emergency response teams. “As we keep a close eye on wildfires across the state, the safety of our fellow Oklahomans is the top priority,” he posted on X.

• The city of Fritch, Texas, is under a boil water notice butthat is “hard to do since many residents are without electricity and or gas,” Hutchinson County announced. Water bottles are being given away at several churches and other locations, officials said.

• Amarillo National Bank is starting a Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund for wildfire victims with a $1 million donation, according to a release from the financial institution.

A ‘massive wall of fire’

The Smokehouse Creek Fire exploded in size – to 850,000 acres from 500,000 acres – after a sudden shift of wind direction Wednesday. As of early Thursday morning, it’s still only 3% contained.

“Wind was coming straight out of the north and made just this massive wall of fire moving across the landscape,” Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Adam Turner said Wednesday.

In the town of Fritch, which was threatened by several wildfires, Frank Probst made sure elderly neighbors could escape before evacuating himself – with almost no time to spare.

“Our main concern was getting them out first. We were the last ones out,” Probst told CNN.

His family wasn’t able to grab any of their belongings before fleeing the devastating inferno.

“It happened so quick. By the time the evacuation sirens went off, it was too late,” he said. “We just jumped in the car and took off.”

As she went back for the dogs, woman saw neighbors’ houses on fire

Tyler McCain and his family woke up Tuesday to smoky skies over Fritch, so they went across town to his grandparents, he said. When it became clear that the fires were getting bad, McCain’s wife returned to the family home to get their two dogs.

As she arrived to her block, she saw the homes of two neighbors on fire. She retrieved the pets and the family stayed overnight in Amarillo.

On Wednesday, the parents and their three girls returned to a pile of ash and rubble.

A tearful McCain told CNN that seeing his 3-year-old daughter, Addison, cry over their house has broken him. “Stuff can be replaced, but it’s hard to see your kids get ripped out of their life like that,” he said.

Addison can’t stop asking about losing her home. “She keeps talking about all the stuff we’ve lost and now she’s saying, ‘Daddy, are you going to build me a new house?’”

McCain regrets not grabbing enough stuff before they had to evacuate. “Everything she keeps asking for I ask myself why I didn’t grab that? Her favorite stuffed animal, why didn’t I get it for her?” he said.

In Hutchinson County – where the Smokehouse Creek, Windy Deuce and 687 Reamer fires are burning – at least 20 structures in Stinnett, some outside Borger city and “quite a few structures” in Fritch were destroyed, a county official said Wednesday.

Probst, the Fritch resident who helped his neighbors then fled, said he returned to his neighborhood Wednesday. His home, purchased just six months ago, is gone, as are entire neighborhoods he drove past on his way to Amarillo, where his family will stay until they figure out what is next.

CNN’s Caroll Alvarado, Amanda Jackson, Monica Garrett, Sharif Paget, Sara Tonks, Lucy Kafanov, Andi Babineau and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Texas panhandle fire

**This image is for use with this specific article only** At least 1 dead as large wildfires sweep through the Texas panhandle.

Greenville Fire-Rescue via CNN Newsource

29 Feb 24

You may also like