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At least 1 dead as large wildfires sweep through the Texas panhandle, including the second-largest blaze in state history – CNN

Smokehouse Creek Fire along the Texas panhandle has scorched more than 500,000 acres of land, making this the second-largest fire in Texas state history. ” data-duration=”00:51″ data-source-html=” – Source:
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smokehouse creek fire

See what the second-largest fire in the history of Texas looks like


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The second-largest fire in Texas history continues to burn Thursday, with the blaze – already bigger than Rhode Island – and several others destroying scores of homes in the state’s panhandle and killing at least one person and thousands of cattle.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned nearly 900,000 acres in Texas and Oklahoma since igniting Monday, officials say. The massive inferno is the biggest of five large fires burning in the region.

One person was killed when flames swept through the Scotts Acres neighborhood in Stinnett, Hutchinson County Public Emergency Management Coordinator Deidra Thomas said Wednesday.

Thomas didn’t identify the victim, but the family of Joyce Blankenship, 83, told CNN she died at her house as the Smokehouse Creek Fire swept through. Family members tried contacting the grandmother on Tuesday but didn’t get a response. On Wednesday, they received word Blakenship had died.

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

A resident in the town of Fritch said they had to escape one of the wildfires quickly but not before taking care of their elderly neighbors. “Our main concern was getting them out first. We were the last ones out,” Frank Probst said.

Probst’s family wasn’t able to grab any of their belongings before they had to rush to safety, he told CNN.

“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.”

In addition to the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has burned 850,000 acres in just Texas, the Windy Deuce Fire in that state has burned 142,000 acres and the Grape Vine Creek Fire has charred 30,000 acres. Two other fires have burned 2,500 or fewer acres each.

Satellite images show homes in Fritch, Texas, before the fire (in August 2023), and after (on Wednesday).

A sudden shift of wind direction in the Texas panhandle this week contributed to the explosion in size of the Smokehouse Creek Fire. “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 afternoon.

The fire exploded in size Wednesday, from 500,000 acres to 850,000 acres, fire officials said. It is 3% contained.

While the weather – much lighter winds – was more favorable to fighting the fires Wednesday, the forecast for Friday calls for elevated to critical fire weather conditions to develop across the area through Monday due to strong winds and low relative humidity values, along with continued drying of things that fuel the fire.

Snow was expected in some areas of the Panhandle on Thursday but was not forecast to be in places affected by the fire.

• Hemphill County AgriLife Extension agent Andy Holloway told CNN that in Hemphill County, which includes the city of Canadian, 400,000 acres burned, scores of homes were destroyed and thousands of cattle died. More than 85% of cattle in the state are raised in the Panhandle, according to agricultural officials.

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

• Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt wrote in a post on X they have 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 said. A state emergency management spokesperson told CNN at least 13 homes have been destroyed.

• The city of Fritch, Texas, is under a boil water notice but that 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.

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

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 said he 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.

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

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, Amanada Jackson, Monica Garrett, Sharif Paget, Sara Tonks, Lucy Kafanov, Andi Babineau contributed to this report.