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Texas fire live updates: Deadly Smokehouse Creek wildfire grows to five times the size of New York City

President Joe Biden addresses Texas Panhandle wildfires

At least one person has died as five wildfires rage across the Texas Panhandle, including the largest blaze in state history.

83-year-old Joyce Blankenship was found dead in her destroyed Hutchinson County home, officials said.

The Smokehouse Creek fire is now the largest in state history, burning 1,075,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. It is now the second-largest fire in US history, local fire officials said, and more than five times the size of New York City.

The wildfires spreading across the Texas Panhandle have burned more than 1.2m acres of land, prompting evacuations and destroying dozens of homes.

The city of Fritch in Hutchinson County has been hit hard this week, with several homes destroyed. The same city was hit by a devastating fire in 2014 that wrecked the town’s northern edge, while this week’s fire hit the south.

Snow also fell in the county on Thursday, covering newly scorched landscapes and destroyed homes.

The spread of the Windy Deuce fire also caused the Pantex Plant — America’s main facility for assembling and disassembling nuclear weapons — to briefly close on Tuesday night. The plant resumed normal operations Wednesday morning.

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Volunteers leading firefighting efforts in some Panhandle cities

A Hutchinson County official reminded residents that some cities in the Panhandle are being protected from fires by volunteer-based departments.

“I want to kind of reiterate in Fritch and Stinnett, both are volunteer-based fire departments,” a spokesperson with the Hutchinson County Office of Emergency Management said Thursday afternoon. “So these people do not have to do that. That’s them just doing what they feel like they need to do for their community.”

Both cities were hit hard by the fires scorching 1.2m acres in the Texas Panhandle this week.

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 22:40

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SEE IT: Satellite footage of Smokehouse Creek fire rapidly expanding

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 22:20

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Previous prescribed burns helped limit flames this week

An official with the Hutchinson County, Texas Office of Emergency Services said prescribed burning helped prevent this week’s fires from becoming worse.

“You can see where we did our prescribed burns previously, how, thankfully, our wildland team did that, because that saved a lot of people’s properties,” the spokesperson said on a Facebook live video. “I know we couldn’t save everything.”

Late last year, Texas officials conducted a prescribed burn in Hutchinson County, which prevented this week’s fires from spreading into the southern parts of the town of Borger, CNN reports.

Prescribed burns are fires intentionally set in controlled areas to destroy fire fuels like dried-out grass and leaves. Indigenous communities have used this practice for millennia and have long advocated for the US government to adopt it in fire-vulnerable areas.

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 22:00

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ICYMI: Nuclear weapon factory forced to evacuate as Texas wildfires threaten plant

Pantex Plant, the main facility that assembles and disassembles America’s nuclear arsenal, shut down its operations on Tuesday night as the Windy Deuce fire roared towards the Potter County location.

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 21:40

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Charred homes, blackened earth after Texas town revisited by destructive wildfire 10 years later

The small town of Fritch is again picking through the rubble of a Texas wildfire, a decade after another destructive blaze burned hundreds of homes and left deep scars in the Panhandle community.

Residents in and around Fritch and other rural towns fled for safety Tuesday afternoon as high winds whipped the flames into residential areas and through cattle ranches.

Fritch Mayor Tom Ray said on Wednesday the town’s northern edge was hit by a devastating wildfire in 2014, while this week’s blaze burned mostly to the south of the town, sparing the residents who live in the heart of the community.

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 21:20

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SEE IT: Snow blankets newly-burned areas of Hutchinson County

Firefighters extinguish flames in Hutchinson County

(AP)

Snow covers a scorched landscape and a cow who died amid the blaze in Fritch, Texas

(AP)

A scorched home covered in snow in Stinnett, Texas on Thursday

(AP)

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 21:00

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SEE IT: Infrared satellite image shows Texas fires burning

Infrared satellite imagery shows burned area in Texas Panhandle on Wednesday

(Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Tech)

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 20:41

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Volunteers leading firefighting efforts in some Panhandle cities

A Hutchinson County official reminded residents that some cities in the Panhandle are being protected from fires by volunteer-based departments.

“I want to kind of reiterate in Fritch and Stinnett, both are volunteer-based fire departments,” a spokesperson with the Hutchinson County Office of Emergency Management said Thursday afternoon. “So these people do not have to do that. That’s them just doing what they feel like they need to do for their community.”

Both cities were hit hard by the fires scorching 1.2m acres in the Texas Panhandle this week.

Firefighters put out flames in Stinnett, Texas, which was blanketed with snow on Thursday morning

(AP)

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 20:19

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Texas wildfires: Map of blazes ravaging the Panhandle

The Smokehouse Creek fire is now the largest in state history as it burns 1,075,000 acres alone, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. It remains just 3 per cent contained.

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 20:00

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Joyce Blankenship, 83, was found dead in her Stinnett, Texas home on Wednesday as wildfires ravaged the region. She was a beloved mother, grandmother and former substitute teacher, say her relatives.

Blankenship’s grandson, Lee Quesada, told the Associated Press that local deputies told his uncle they had found her remains in her burned home on Wednesday.

Read more from The Independent:

Katie Hawkinson29 February 2024 19:40


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