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Texas wildfires: At least 1 dead as huge blaze grows to 850,000 acres

It wasn't immediately clear where the death occurred. The fires have also led to the shutdown and evacuation of the nuclear weapons facility at Pantex out of “an abundance of caution.”

What to know about Texas wildfires

  • At least one person has died in the wildfires raging across the Texas Panhandle, which have threatened towns, forced evacuations and cut power to thousands of homes and businesses.
  • A fire at Smokehouse Creek, north of Amarillo, has burned through 850,000 acres and is only 3% contained. It has quickly become the second-largest wildfire in Texas history.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties and urged Texans "to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe."
  • Strong winds, unseasonably high temperatures and dry grass are fueling the fires, although rain could arrive tomorrow.

Coverage on this live blog has ended. Follow here for the latest news on the Texas wildfires.

Nuclear weapons facility Pantex resumes normal operation, thanks responders

The nuclear weapons facility Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle resumed normal operations Wednesday after a fire north of the site prompted the evacuation of nonessential staff members, it said.

The fires were north of the facility and site. The plant said on X that there was no immediate wildfire threat "at this time."

“Thanks to the responsive actions of all Pantexans and the NNSA Production Office in cooperation with the women and men of the Pantex Fire Department and our mutual aid partners from neighboring communities, the fire did not reach or breach the plant’s boundary,” it said.

The Pantex Plant said that when the staff members were evacuated, weapons and special materials were safe and not affected.

The facility, the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the U.S., is 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The last nuclear weapon was completed there in 1991, and since then it "has safely dismantled thousands of weapons retired from the stockpile by the military and placed the resulting plutonium pits in interim storage," the Energy Department says on its website.

Family identifies woman killed in fire

The Associated Press

Family members have identified the woman who died as Joyce Blankenship, a former substitute teacher from the town of Stinnett.

Lee Quesada, her grandson, said he had posted in a community forum asking whether anyone could try to locate her. Quesada said deputies told his uncle today that they had found Blankenship’s remains in her burned home.

Quesada said Blankenship, 83, would surprise him at times with funny little stories “about her more ornery days.”

“Just talking to her was a joy,” he said, adding that “Joy” was a nickname of hers.

Texas agency raises wildland fire preparedness level to 3

The Texas A&M Forest Service tonight raised its Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to three because of the number of wildfires in the state, including the Panhandle.

That level means wildfire activity “is impacting several regions of the state as the result of drought, dry vegetation or frequent fire weather events,” according to an agency document.

The level is for planning purposes, but it raises the possibility that outside help may be required.

“Texas A&M Forest Service strategically positions personnel, equipment and aircraft in areas at risk. Additional resources, including those from other regions, agencies or states, may be necessary,” the document says.

Increases in both the number of fires and the resources committed to fight them prompted raising the fire preparedness level, the Texas A&M Forest Service said on X.

"The fire environment is expected to support wildfire activity over the next few weeks," it said.

Fires have hit the region before

The Associated Press

The largest of the latest Texas fires — the Smokehouse Creek Fire — grew from about 800 square miles to more than 1,300 square miles today, the Texas A&M Forest Service said.

The speed at which the fires are spreading is “definitely not standard,” said Melissa Toole, an administrative associate at the forest service.

Flames the height of a one-story building can burn the length of a football field in one minute, said Leighton Chachere Gibson, a communications specialist at the forest service.

The East Amarillo Complex Fire in 2006 burned more than 900,000 acres in the same general location.

Fire in Moore County grows to 142,000 acres

The fire in Moore County ballooned in size, scorching an estimated 142,000 acres.

The Windy Deuce Fire was 30% contained, with crews continuing to build a containment line, the Texas A&M Forest Service said tonight.

The agency added that mandatory evacuations remained in place for Fritch, a town of about 1,800 people as of the 2020 census.

Satellite images show land scathed by wildfires

Images taken by satellite show the towns of Fritch, Borger, Miami and Canadian burned by wildfires that have been raging in the Texas Panhandle this week.

The images from Maxar show large areas burned by fires, including the Smokehouse Creek Fire, the second largest in Texas history.

According to Maxar, "dozens of homes and structures were destroyed in Fritch," and burn scars are visible in images of the countryside.

wildfire texas aerial
Satellite views of the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas on Wednesday.Courtesy Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies
wildfire texas aerial
Courtesy Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies
wildfire texas aerial
Courtesy Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies


At least one person dead

John Filippelli

The wildfires have been linked to at least one death.

An official with the city of Borger confirmed the death tonight without providing additional details.

The location of the death and the victim's identity were not immediately available.

Photos showing remains of home destroyed in fire in Canadian, Texas

Anthony Correia

Anthony Correia and Emma Li
wildfire aftermath rubble dire destruction
Melanie McQuiddy stands near the remains of her home in Canadian, Texas, which was destroyed by fire Wednesday.Courtesy Brooke McQuiddy
wildfire aftermath rubble dire destruction
Remains of Melanie McQuiddy's home.Courtesy Brooke McQuiddy
wildfire aftermath rubble dire destruction
Remains of Melanie McQuiddy's home.Courtesy Brooke McQuiddy

Will the forecast help or hinder firefighting?

The Associated Press

Today is the day to wrangle these fires. Winds are forecast to be light — under 10 mph — until the late evening. Tomorrow, some help could come in the form of light rain in the morning.

But Samuel Scoleri, a forecaster at the National Weather Service Amarillo office, warned of a “déjà-vu weather pattern,” with strong winds returning over the weekend, although most likely not as intense as they were yesterday and today.

Texas resident 'blessed' his house didn't burn down in the fires

Guad Venegas

FRITCH, Texas — Alta Hudson got emotional when he thought of all of the people who lost their homes in the Texas wildfires, including his neighbors and family, adding that he is "blessed" he didn't lose his.

Hudson said his house was saved by a cinder block wall that stopped the flames.

"Honestly I didn’t think we’d have anything left in this area, but our house made it," Hudson said. "We were blessed, and like now, it makes you tear up a little bit, but my in-laws' house back that way, and my daughter’s house, they didn’t make it."

He said it took only 20 seconds from the first moment he saw the fire in a field across the street to the moment his neighbor's house — two doors down from his own — was on fire.

Hudson said, "There was a lot of smoke and a whole lot of heat, it was so hot," adding that "you could barely breathe."

Drone video captures devastation after Texas wildfire

NBC News

Drone video shows the widespread devastation after the fire in Stinnett, Texas.

Texas fires are 'quicker than anybody can get around,' forest service says

The spokesperson for Texas A&M Forest Service said that battling the fires has been difficult due to super high winds and because the blazes are moving “quicker than anybody can get around.” 

“The last two days we’ve been under what we call a southern plains wildfire outbreak,” he said in an interview with KAMR Local 4 News of Amarillo. “It’s a condition that occurs here, and Kansas and New Mexico and the Southern Plains of Oklahoma where we have these super high winds come into the area with low humidities and push and just have massive fire growth.” 

He said when you couple that with “grass development out in this area” from recent rain, it provided “a bunch of fuel for the fire to burn.” 

Video shows heavy smoke, flames from Texas wildfire

NBC News

Video captured heavy smoke and flames from the Smokehouse Creek wildfire in Canadian, Texas. The blaze has forced residents to evacuate and cut off power to thousands.

Smokehouse Creek fire has burned through an estimated 850,000 acres

The Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County continued to grow, scorching an estimated 850,000 acres, the Texas A&M Forest Service said in an update this afternoon.

It is 3% contained, it said. Already the second largest fire in Texas history, the blaze is quickly approaching the record set by the East Amarillo Complex fire at 907,245 acres in 2006.

Canadian, Texas, school district cancels classes for the week

The Canadian, Texas, school district canceled classes for the remainder of the week but will open its doors to families in need.

"For the next two days (Thursday and Friday), we will open our campuses for any families who need to bring their kids in while parents deal with fire-related or any other issues," the Canadian Independent School District said in a Facebook post. "We will not have normal classes, but we will supervise, entertain, feed, and generally care for your children."

The district also said locker rooms will be opened for community use.

Classes are expected to resume on Monday.

Photos show wildfire smoke darken the sky, turn the sun red

NBC News

Firefighters from Flower Mound, Texas, travelled to the Panhandle to help battle the wildfires and captured images of the sky above the Smokehouse Creek fire. The photos were posted last night, when the fire was still at 100,000 acres. This morning it grew to 500,000 acres.

Video shows Smokehouse Creek fire surrounding road as vehicles drive through smoke

NBC News

Facebook user Sam Ciaramitaro posted a video of the scene, recorded at the Canadian Inn in Canadian, Texas.

"At least 30 homes in town burned to the ground," he wrote. "3 displaced people staying here, most evacuated and don’t even know their homes are burned yet. It’s been a hell of a day."

Map shows scale of massive Smokehouse Creek fire

NBC News

Officials warn Fritch residents that ‘homes were completely lost’ 

Hutchinson County Emergency Management spokesperson Deidra Thomas said much-needed resources are beginning to arrive, but warned that Fritch area residents should prepare themselves because "some homes were completely lost."

"There are still active structures on fire in Fritch," she said in a Facebook video update. "There are active fires still there."

While some homes have been destroyed, others "are still standing and just fine," Thomas added. 

Help that includes air resources was beginning to arrive as officials worked to assess the damage. She said it was "something very positive to look forward to."

Video shows cattle running from Texas wildfires

NBC News

Wildfires and massive clouds of smoke are spreading across northern Texas as strong winds, dry grass and unseasonably warm temperatures fuel the flames.

Texas blazes are not the only cause for climate concern: Amazon wildfires generate record emissions

It's not just the wildfires in the U.S. that are cause for concern.

A new report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the European Union’s climate agency, found that wildfires in Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia in February have produced the highest carbon emissions for the month since at least 2003.

The climate agency said there was a significant increase in the number of wildfires across the tropical parts of South America in the second half of February. The intensity of the fires and their estimated emissions also jumped in the latter part of the month, according to Copernicus researchers.

The tropical parts of the continent, including northern Venezuela and northern Brazil, are approaching peak wildfire activity for the year. But for other parts of the South America, including Bolivia and the Amazon region as a whole, peak wildfire season typically occurs in September and October, according to Copernicus.

Texas wildfires leave more than 10,000 homes and businesses without power

Wildfires have left 10,301 customers in the dark as of this morning, according to the energy-tracking website Earlier, the number of homes and businesses without power was 4,254.

A majority of the outages — almost 4,000 — are in Hutchinson County.

As wildfires burn through Texas, severe storms may hit the Midwest

NBC News

As the Texas wildfires burn through 500,000 acres of land, the Midwest is preparing to face a cold front and severe storms. NBC News’ Angie Lassman reports on the latest extreme weather in the United States and what to expect in the next few days.

Smokehouse Creek is now the second-largest wildfire in state history

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is now the second-largest wildfire in state history, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, which said the fire has grown to an estimated 500,000 acres.

Thirty of the largest wildfires occurred in the state between 1988 and 2022, with the largest being the East Amarillo Complex at 907,245 acres in 2006.

The Big Country Fire in 1988, now the third largest, burned 366,000 acres, followed by Perryton in 2017 at 318,156 acres, and Rockhouse Fire at 314,444 acres.

Smokehouse Creek Fire grows to an estimated 500,000 acres

The Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County has grown to an estimated 500,000 acres and is zero percent contained, the Texas A&M Forest Service said in a post on X.

The service said that the fire's "behavior has moderated with decreased winds" but warned that it is still actively burning.

Agriculture chief warns of wildfires' impact on farming

Texas farmers and ranchers are facing the "destruction" of their livelihoods as a result of wildfires that have continued to rage through the panhandle this week into today, the state's agriculture commissioner said.

"These fires not only threaten lives and property but also have a significant impact on our agriculture industry," Sid Miller said in a statement posted on Facebook last night.

"We stand in solidarity with our farmers and ranchers facing loss and destruction. Our thoughts are with them during this challenging time, and we’re committed to supporting their recovery efforts every step of the way," he added.

State of disaster declared in Amarillo and surrounding counties

The city of Amarillo and its two local counties, Randall and Potter, declared a local state of disaster overnight, the city's office of emergency management said in a post on Facebook late last night.

The message stressed that the only area being evacuated was the Mesilla Park neighborhood. "The state of disaster simply notifies the state that our region requires assistance and/or additional resources for areas impacted," it added.

Texas fire burning near nuclear weapons plant forces evacuations

Adrienne Broaddus

Al Roker

Adrienne Broaddus and Al Roker

Wildfires are raging in the South with conditions so bad in Texas that a nuclear weapons plant was partially evacuated. Meanwhile, flights at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport were grounded and passengers were forced to shelter in place after tornado reports. NBC’s Adrienne Broaddus reports and the "TODAY" show’s Al Roker tracks the latest forecast.

Nuclear weapons facility to reopen today

The Pantex nuclear weapons site in Amarillo said it would reopen today after it closed and evacuated its staff last night.

On Facebook, the plant said that its staff should turn up for shifts as normal and confirmed that there was no fire within the plant site. There is an uncontained fire north of the facility, the update said.

Cattle pictured running away from raging wildfires

NBC News

Cattle running through smoke from fires in Stinnett, Texas, on Monday.
Cattle running through smoke from fires in Stinnett, Texas, on Monday.Katlyn Butler

Video shows Texas firefighters driving along highway surrounded by wildfires

NBC News

Video showed firefighters from the Greenville Fire Department driving through wildfires raging across a highway in the Texas Panhandle.

More than 4,000 homes and businesses without power across Texas

Wildfires have left 4,254 energy customers without power as of this morning, according to the energy-tracking website

This includes almost 2,000 customers in Hutchinson County, where the Smokehouse Fire has already covered more than 300,000 acres.

'Tragedy and miracles' in wildfire evacuations

A sheriff's office working to evacuate people from fire-threatened homes in a neighboring county said the "Panhandle needs prayers," as fires continued to spread.

The Moore County Sheriff's Office has been dealing with calls related to a 40,000-acre fire at Windy Deuce in Moore County, which is 20% contained, and is assisting deputies from Hutchinson County, where the huge Smokehouse Creek Fire has already covered 300,000 acres.

"We have seen tragedy today and we have seen miracles. Today was a historic event we hope never happens again," the office said in a Facebook post.  

At least 5 wildfires are raging through the Texas Panhandle

Firefighters were battling at least five wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, which have already burned through almost 400,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Incident Viewer.

Texas Panhandle Wildfires

The biggest, at Smokehouse Creek in Hutchinson County, has grown to 300,000 acres, more than 450 square miles, and is zero percent contained. According to A&M data, it is the fifth-biggest wildfire in Texas history.

At least four fires, including one near Amarillo, have now been contained.

Evacuations ordered across the panhandle

Authorities in several locations across northern Texas have told people to leave their homes as uncontrolled fires continue to spread.

The National Weather Service in Amarillo said last night that a mandatory evacuation order was in place for the Mesilla Park area of Potter County.

The Moore County Sheriff's Office said Double Diamond, an area west of the city of Fritch, was subject to an emergency evacuation alert.

"Due to an the approaching fire it's imperative to evacuate the area for your safety and well-being," the office said in a statement. A shelter has been opened at Celebration Family Church, 811 E, Broadway, Fritch.

The Hemphill County Hospital District said it had moved all patients and residents from its hospital and nursing homes in the city of Canadian, to facilities in Pampa to the southwest.

Massive wildfire burns through Texas Panhandle

NBC News

Evacuations have been ordered and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties as wildfires burn in parts of the panhandle.