Texas Panhandle is still scorching over 1.2 million acres - Hindustan Times
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Texas Panhandle is still scorching over 1.2 million acres. Here's what we know so far

Mar 05, 2024 07:44 AM IST

The largest wildfire in Texas' history has ravaged the region, killing two people, destroying hundreds of structures, and wiping out thousands of cattle.

A series of devastating wildfires have swept through the Texas Panhandle, claiming two lives and scorching more than 1.3 million acres in a week. The situation remains critical, as five fires are still burning in the region, according to Texas A&M Forest Service.

A cow stands near a spot fire, likely from one of the recent deadly wildfires, fueled by high winds near Canadian, Texas, U.S., March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis(REUTERS)
A cow stands near a spot fire, likely from one of the recent deadly wildfires, fueled by high winds near Canadian, Texas, U.S., March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis(REUTERS)

Texas fires now span over 1.2 million acres in a week.

Texas Panhandle is coping with five active wildfires

The biggest and most destructive fire is the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County, which has consumed nearly 1.1 million acres and is the largest wildfire in the state’s history. As of Sunday afternoon, only 15% of the fire was contained.

The other fires are the Grape Vine Creek Fire in Gray County, which has charred almost 35,000 acres and is 60% contained, the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, which has torched 144,206 acres and is 55% contained, the Magenta Fire in Oldham County, which has burned about 3,300 acres and is 85% contained, and the new Roughneck Fire in Hutchinson County, which has grown to an estimated 300 acres and is 25% contained.

ALSO READ| ‘A gift from God’: Texas receives much-needed rains & snowfall as largest wildfires continue to wreak havoc

Cold front may bring some relief

The weather has been a challenge for the firefighters, as the area has experienced dry and windy conditions that favour fire spread. However, the National Weather Service (NWS) said Monday morning that a cold front will bring cooler temperatures that will help reduce the fire threat.

“Even though there is no precipitation in the forecast, winds and relative humidity values will thankfully not hit any fire weather thresholds early this week,” the Amarillo station said. “… Weak winds at the surface and a lot are looking likely for Tuesday so fire weather should not be a concern.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Friday that the fires have caused tremendous damage, saying that many of the affected areas are “completely gone” with “nothing left but ashes on the ground.”

He said that preliminary assessments show that up to 500 structures have been destroyed as of Friday afternoon.

“We have people who don’t have a home, don’t have a place to go to. … And we as Texans need to collaborate together, to work not just on the restoration process, but that restoration process takes a while,” he said.

“We need to work on the process of finding immediate and temporary housing for these individual people.”

ALSO READ| Texas is still burning, deadly wildfire claims two lives and torches more than 500 structures

On Monday, Abbott said that “the safety and well-being of impacted Texans is our No. 1 priority as the potential for more dangerous wildfires persists in the coming days.”

Texas wildfires claim thousands of cattle, dealing a blow to ranchers during this calving season

The fires have also taken a toll on the ranchers. Officials said that the fires have left “dead animals everywhere,” and that thousands of cattle will have perished by the end of the disaster. Many farmers and ranchers have offered their help, providing land, free medication, and labour to try and save animals.

Mike Martinez helps Chuck Morgan move the body of a dead cow, killed by the recent wildfires, into a trailer with other dead cattle near Canadian, Texas, U.S., March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis(REUTERS)
Mike Martinez helps Chuck Morgan move the body of a dead cow, killed by the recent wildfires, into a trailer with other dead cattle near Canadian, Texas, U.S., March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis(REUTERS)

“We’re picking up deads today,” Chance Bowers, one ranch operator, told the AP last week as he showed the more than a thousand cattle on his land. “… This pasture we’re standing in, there as 93 cows in it and there is six left.”

He said that he expects to lose about 200 to 250 cows, in the middle of calving season.

Abbott said that he will request a federal disaster declaration to aid the recovery.

ALSO READ| Texas struggles to contain the second-largest wildfire in US history following Maui

On Thursday, President Joe Biden said that he had instructed his team to “do everything possible to help protect the people and the communities threatened by these fires.” He said that more than 100 federal firefighters were on their way to the state, along with “dozens of additional fire engines, air tankers, small planes, helicopters to help fight the flames.”

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