Monday, April 15, 2024

A really bad fire is burning a huge area in Texas, like a million acres! It’s the biggest fire ever in Texas. And there are more fires going on too

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Massive fires are causing major destruction in the Texas Panhandle. Sadly, at least two people have lost their lives, and many homes, cattle, and people’s livelihoods are at risk. The Smokehouse Creek Fire alone has burned over 1 million acres in Texas, making it the biggest fire ever recorded in the state. Oklahoma has also been affected, with more than 31,500 acres charred. This fire is now among the largest in the Lower 48 since the 1980s when they started keeping records. Unfortunately, there is currently no end in sight, as three fires continue to burn in the Texas Panhandle.

Even though it rained a bit on Thursday, dry air and strong winds are expected to come back on Friday and during the weekend. This could make the wildfires worse.

The wildfires have already burned about 2,000 square miles, which is almost the same size as the whole state of Delaware.

Sadly, two people have died because of the Smokehouse Creek Fire. Cindy Owen was found dead in Hemphill County, as told by Chris Ray, a Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant, to CNN.

In Hutchinson County, the fire took the life of 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship, according to her family.

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

Here are the latest updates:
– Power outages are a big worry because North Plains Electric Cooperative has around 115 miles of power lines to fix.

In Hemphill County, a vast area of 400,000 acres is on fire. Many homes are destroyed, and thousands of cattle have died, shared Andy Holloway, the Hemphill County AgriLife Extension agent. Over 85% of Texas cattle come from the Panhandle, as per agriculture officials.

Apart from the massive Smokehouse Creek Fire, the Windy Deuce Fire in Texas has burned 142,000 acres and is 50% controlled by early Thursday afternoon.

The part of the Smokehouse Creek Fire that spread into Oklahoma is now 40% controlled there, mentioned Keith Merckx, a spokesperson from Oklahoma Forestry Services on Thursday evening.

The Grape Vine Creek Fire has burnt 30,000 acres and is 60% controlled.

The Magenta Fire is still burning, covering 2,500 acres and is 65% controlled.

The 687 Reamer Fire burned over 2,000 acres before merging into the Smokehouse Creek Fire on Thursday.

President Joe Biden pledged support for those affected by the wildfires on Thursday, also using the opportunity to address those who don’t believe in climate change.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed more state resources to combat the fires, including 94 firefighting personnel, 33 fire engines, and six air tankers.

A ranch with a 120-year history reports that about 80% of its nearly 80,000 acres have burned. The Turkey Track Ranch, known as the Prize of the Panhandle, is devastated, impacting livestock, crops, and wildlife, along with other ranches and homes in the region.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has engulfed 98% of the 5,394 acres of the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area in Hemphill County, along the Canadian River in the Northern Rolling Plains.

At least 13 homes in Oklahoma have been destroyed, with Gov. Kevin Stitt activating emergency response teams.

Two firefighters from Pampa, Texas, were treated for minor injuries sustained while battling the fires on Monday night.

Fritch, Texas, is under a boil water notice, but this is challenging as many residents are without electricity or gas. Water bottles are being distributed at various locations.

Amarillo National Bank is establishing a Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund for wildfire victims with a $1 million donation.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire rapidly expanded on Tuesday due to a sudden shift in wind direction. As of Thursday, it’s only 3% contained in Texas, described by Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Adam Turner as a “massive wall of fire” moving across the landscape when the wind came from the north.

In Fritch town, there were big fires, and Frank Probst helped old neighbors leave before leaving himself. He said, “We wanted to make sure they were safe. We left at the very end.” His family couldn’t take anything with them because the fire came too fast. Probst explained, “It happened really fast. When the sirens rang, it was already too late. We just got in the car and left.”

When the woman went back to get their dogs, she saw the houses of two neighbors on fire. Tyler McCain and his family woke up to smoky skies in Fritch and decided to go to his grandparents’ house. When the fires got worse, McCain’s wife went back to their home for the dogs. She found two neighbors’ houses on fire and brought back the pets. The family spent the night in Amarillo. The next day, the parents and their three girls returned to find their home in ruins.

A sad McCain shared with CNN how his 3-year-old daughter, Addison, crying over their home being taken away has deeply affected him. “Things can be replaced, but it’s really tough to see your kids forced out of their life like that,” he expressed.

Addison is constantly inquiring about the loss of their home. “She talks about all the things we don’t have anymore, and now she’s wondering, ‘Daddy, will you make me a new house?'”

McCain feels remorse for not grabbing enough belongings before evacuating. “I keep questioning myself, why didn’t I take that? Her favorite stuffed animal, why didn’t I grab it for her?” he lamented.

In Hutchinson County, where the Smokehouse Creek, Windy Deuce, and 687 Reamer fires are causing destruction, a county official mentioned on Wednesday that at least 20 buildings in Stinnett, some located outside Borger city, and “quite a few structures” in Fritch were ruined.

Probst, a resident of Fritch who assisted neighbors and then evacuated, shared that he came back to his neighborhood on Wednesday. Sadly, his home, bought just six months ago, is no more. Entire neighborhoods he passed on his way to Amarillo, where his family is staying temporarily, have also been lost.

A tragic incident occurred to Cindy Owen, a 44-year-old truck driver working about 50 miles north of Pampa, Texas, on Tuesday during the Smokehouse Creek Fire. Owen’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Mitchell, shared with CNN that she couldn’t breathe, evacuated the truck, tried to run for safety but didn’t make it.

According to Mitchell, family members tried desperately to help Owen as they were on a video call during the incident. Tragically, she was found with burns covering about 90% of her body.

Rescuers in Hemphill County managed to reach Owen and took her to the INTEGRIS Burn Center in Oklahoma City for treatment. Mitchell shared that despite their efforts, Owen’s sister-in-law didn’t make it through the night.

Mitchell had known Owen for 16 years since getting together with her husband. She described Cindy as a unique and caring person who would go out of her way to help others. Whether it was giving coats to people in the cold, assisting homeless individuals with food, money, or clothes, or aiding stray dogs, Owen was known for her kindness. She was also devoted to her large family and made sure to attend everyone’s birthday parties and kids’ events.

According to Mitchell, Owen, who fought hard until the end, is survived by her fiancée, Elaine Sanchez. Despite CNN reaching out to the hospital for comment, there has been no response. The information in this report was contributed by CNN journalists Brandon Miller, Caroll Alvarado, Amanda Jackson, Monica Garrett, Sharif Paget, Sara Tonks, Lucy Kafanov, Andi Babineau, Andy Rose, Mary Gilbert, Samantha Waldenberg, and Christina Zdanowicz.

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