Wildfires Sweep Through Texas Panhandle, Evacuations Underway

 

PERRYTON, TX — Wildfires have torn through the Texas Panhandle, leaving a trail of destruction and forcing the evacuation of several communities across Hutcheson, Gray, Roberts, Hemphill, and other counties in Texas and Oklahoma. Our correspondent, Bill Bob Thrash, is reporting from Perryton, providing updates on the ground.

As of Wednesday morning, the Hutchison County fire, known as the Smokehouse Creek Fire, ignited on Monday and intensified through Tuesday, has spiraled out of control, scorching approximately 500,000 acres. The towns of Fritch and Canadian have been severely impacted.

A map of where the Panhandle fires of Feb. 2024 are located and their containment as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024.

A map of where the Panhandle fires of Feb. 2024 are located and their containment as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024.

Early estimates suggest that up to 100 homes have been razed in Stinnett, located roughly 10 miles from Borger. The picturesque town of Canadian witnessed evacuation orders around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, as flames encroached upon residences along Highway US 83. Visible from the Canadian High School Football Field, residents who failed to evacuate early were compelled to shelter in place due to road closures.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire on Feb. 27, 2024

The Smokehouse Creek Fire on Feb. 27, 2024

Additional fires erupted across counties in Texas and Oklahoma, placing numerous homes at risk. The Windy Deuce fire to the south devoured around 40,000 acres. The National Weather Service in Amarillo reported wind gusts exceeding 55 mph, with some reaching up to 70 mph, across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles.

Texas A&M Forest Service

Texas A&M Forest Service

The Smokehouse Creek Fire

The Smokehouse Creek Fire

These extreme winds, coupled with low humidity, above-average temperatures, and ample dormant pasturelands, provided the ideal conditions for the wildfires to spread uncontrollably. Monday's high winds allowed certain fires to smolder overnight.

On Tuesday, meteorological conditions favored extremely high winds, reigniting the fires and prompting them to spread from the southwest to the east. By late afternoon, around 4:30 p.m., a cold front swept into the area, altering wind directions and intensifying firefighting efforts.

Communities including Miami, Stinnett, Fritch, Canadian, Wheeler, and rural areas across 6 counties are assessing the damage. While numerous homes and livestock have been lost, there have been no reported fatalities.

Firefighters from as far as San Angelo have rallied to support local firefighting teams.

Wednesday's weather forecast offers a brief respite for exhausted workers and a chance to contain the fires that persisted overnight. Winds are expected to escalate again over the weekend, albeit with some moisture in the forecast, potentially aiding firefighting efforts.

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