April 20, 2024

Mandatory evacuations were issued in Texas on Tuesday afternoon as wind-swept wildfires continued to burn uncontrollably across the panhandle. With unseasonably warm temperatures and strong gusts helping to fuel the flames through dry grasses, the largest blaze, known as the Smokehouse Creek fire, consumed more than 250,000 acres since it ignited Monday, and remains 0% contained. Two others had collectively scorched more than 38,000 acres and were each 20% contained.

Fire had made its way into Fritch, TX. It’s moved into neighborhoods and structures are on fire. We have assisted with evacuation because the fire was already on people who had no idea it was in there backyard. Bad situation ongoing! #txwx #firewarning #texas pic.twitter.com/A5tv2FEjtV

— Blake Brown (@BlakeBrownWx) February 27, 2024

“There has been some structure loss,” said public information officer Juan Rodriguez, who added that it’s too soon to know how many buildings have burned. Rodriguez said high winds are complicating the efforts, even though there’s hope for higher humidity on Wednesday.

Gusts of up to 65mph and low relative humidity are contributing to critical fire weather conditions and they aren’t expected to calm soon, according to the National Weather Service. Millions of people across the south-central US remain under red flag warnings. “Stronger winds are anticipated today, and conditions will remain quite favorable for the start and spread of wildfires,” the NWS in Amarillo, Texas, wrote in an update Tuesday, before urging residents to take extra caution with activities that could cause new ignitions.

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Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties across the region under threat from the fires, stating that additional counties may be added as conditions intensify. The state’s division of emergency management has also been enlisted to provide resources and aid local firefighters in the response. Encouraging Texans to keep their loved ones safe and thanking first responders, Abbott also shared warnings from Texas A&M forest service that risks were high for fires beyond the panhandle, in regions of the South Plains, Texoma, Permian Basin and portions of East Texas.

The Smokehouse Creek fire, already the fifth largest in the state’s history, burned more than all the fires ignited in Texas last year combined, according to the Texas A&M forest service. Several communities were forced to flee, in some cases through chaos and confusion as the winds changed and exit routes were blocked by closed roads.

Residents in the city of Canadian, a city in Hemphill county, were told to shelter in place Tuesday afternoon, due to closures of important routes out of the city.

Texas fires continue to romp.

Multiple towns including Canadian, Texas have been evacuated.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is now over 100k acres and pushed over 45 MILES yesterday.

This fire is eating up grazing ground at an alarming rate#wildfire #txfire

— The Hotshot Wake Up (@HotshotWake) February 27, 2024

“The wind has shifted from the north,” the sheriff’s office for the town of Roberts posted on Facebook, adding: “If you have not evacuated, do so now.” The city of Borger, in Hutchinson county, meanwhile, posted a plea for patience and instructions to remain off the roads as residents inundated the agency with questions.

“We are trying to keep our pages as up to date as possible. Please understand that fire related situations are rapidly changing. This includes evacuations, active hot spots, and wind shifts,” the city posted online. “We understand it’s inconvenient for the roads to be closed,” they added, “but there is active fire all over our roadways right now. And where there isn’t fire, there is extreme smoke, making visibility nonexistent. Do NOT chance it! [sic]”

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