Texas battles second-biggest wildfire disaster in state history

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

WASHINGTON: A rapidly spreading Texas wildfire has forced residents to evacuate, cut off power to homes and businesses, and briefly paused operations at a nuclear weapons facility on Wednesday.

The second largest fire in Texas history, it has burned 500,000 acres of land north of the city of Amarillo.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties.

Dry grass, high temperatures and strong winds have fuelled the conflagration.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said that the winds had diminished slightly, helping to moderate the fire’s spread. Rain was expected in the state’s northern panhandle on Thursday, which may aid efforts to extinguish the blaze.

In the meantime, hundreds of firefighters and first responders have been deployed to the fire, Seth Christensen, the spokesman for Texas Division of Emergency Management, said.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, as it has been named, has already razed half a million acres. It remains behind the East Amarillo Complex fire, which burned over 900,000 acres in 2006.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has caused several towns, a neighbourhood in the city of Amarillo, and other communities to evacuate, according to the forest service and local law enforcement.

The National Weather Service has warned residents near Amarillo to remain indoors with their pets because of the poor air quality. Texas has issued warnings to farmers about the potential impact on agriculture and livestock.