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Texas wildfires live updates: 2 dead in largest blaze in state history

The wildfire at Smokehouse Creek is only 3% contained and has covered an estimated 1.075 million acres.

What to know about the Texas wildfires

  • The wildfire at Smokehouse Creek is only 3% contained and has covered an estimated 1.075 million acres — making it bigger than Rhode Island — becoming the largest blaze in Texas history, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
  • The state's fire preparedness level was raised to a three, meaning outside help from other agencies, regions or states may be required to battle the blazes.
  • Two people have been confirmed dead. Former substitute teacher Joyce Blankenship, 83, was found dead in her home, family members said. Cindy Owens, believed to be in her 40s, from Amarillo, died Thursday, two days after she got out of her truck in Canadian and the fire "overtook her," officials said.
  • Wildfires, having moved east from the Texas Panhandle, were spreading in Oklahoma. At least 12 fires were burning in the state, covering more than 115,000 acres.
  • Conditions ripe for more fires are expected Saturday and Sunday. Heat and high winds — forecast to gust at 20 to 35 mph — are likely to cause "critical fire weather conditions again," the National Weather Service in Amarillo said.

Coverage on this live blog has ended. Please click here for the latest updates.

Second death confirmed

A second person was confirmed dead today as a result of the wildfires, Sgt. Chris Ray of the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Cindy Owens was approaching fire and smoke while driving a truck in Canadian on Tuesday, Ray said. She got out of the truck for an unknown reason, and "the fire simply overtook her."

A passerby stopped and helped Owens when she was burned by the fire and called 911. She was taken to a burn unit in Oklahoma City, Ray said.

Owens, believed to be in her 40s and from Amarillo, Texas, died this morning.

"We still don't know why she got out of her truck," Ray said.

Magenta Fire is 85% contained

The Magenta Fire in Oldham County — which is covering an estimated 3,300 acres — is now 85% contained, according to an update from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

"Firefighters continue to patrol and mop up across the fire area, checking for heat near containment lines," the forest service said. "Dozer crews are widening and improving these lines."

Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine to assist during wildfires

A team from the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine, including veterinary faculty and third year vet students, will support the Veterinary Emergency Team during the wildfires that continue to rage in Texas.

In a statement, the school said, "our faculty and students will help assess and provide the necessary veterinary needs of those affected communities."

The team will work to care for injured animals or animals that are becoming sick from the wildfires as needed. The school will also provide veterinary and general supplies such as water, non-perishables, and small and large animal supplies to those affected, the school said.

2 Pampa, Texas, firefighters injured in Monday's blaze

Two firefighters from Pampa, Texas, were injured while fighting the wildfires Monday, city spokesperson Dustin Miller said.

Both of the firefighters were taken to Pampa Regional Medical and then transferred to Lubbock, according to Miller. They were released Tuesday morning and are still recovering from injuries. 

Biden details response to Texas wildfires, thanks first responders

Biden discussed the wildfires during his visit to Brownsville, Texas, expressing gratitude for first responders “risking their lives to save others” and urging people to “listen to the warnings from the local officials.”

The president noted that 500 federal personnel were working on fire suppression. 

He also jabbed at people who do not believe in climate change.

“The idea that there’s no such thing as climate change … I love that, man,” he said sarcastically. “I love some of my Neanderthal friends who still think there’s no climate change.”

‘It was heartbreaking’: Texas homeowner after wildfire destroys home

NBC News

Jason Wilhelm, a homeowner in Canadian, Texas, spoke out after the wildfire destroyed his house. Wilhelm said the fire is “devastating for the community.”

Windy Deuce Fire now 50% contained

Katherine Itoh

The Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, Texas, is 50% contained as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire, which was 30% contained this morning, burned around 142,000 acres. Evacuations are still in place for the area. Firefighters will continue monitoring the wildfire and checking for heat near containment lines.

How the largest Texas wildfire compares to where you live

The deadly wildfires in Texas, the largest in the state’s history and which are now spreading into Oklahoma, cover an area nearly the size of Delaware’s land. The most massive of the blazes, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, is larger than Rhode Island.

But how big is that really?

To get a sense of the scale of the Smokehouse Creek Fire’s million-plus acres, use the map in the link below to compare the blaze to any of the most-populous cities or towns in the U.S.

Read the full story here.

Texas A&M Forest Service advises 'extreme caution' for outdoor celebrations ahead of Texas Independence Day

Katherine Itoh

As strong winds and dry grass increase the potential for wildfires in the Plains region over the weekend, Texans are advised to use “extreme caution” when partaking in outdoor celebrations that may cause a spark.

That includes fireworks celebrating Texas Independence Day on Saturday. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is by attending a public show hosted by professionals, according to a Texas A&M Forest Service news release.

When setting off personal fireworks, Texans should check for local government burn bans and other restrictions. Only use fireworks in safe areas away from dry grass and bushes, and keep a bucket of water handy.

For those planning to host a barbecue over the weekend, avoid placing the grill near any flammable vegetation or material, and never leave it unattended.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, about 90% of wildfires are caused by human-related activities, and holidays pose an increased risk of fire starts.

Map shows 140 fires across Texas this past week

NBC News

The Texas A&M Forest Service released a map showing all the wildfire activity from across the state in the past seven days. The 140 blazes have burned a combined 1,260,725 acres.

Four major wildfires remain active, burning 1.2 million acres across Texas Panhandle

Katherine Itoh

The Texas A&M Forest Service is working to contain four major active wildfires this morning across the Texas Panhandle that have burned an estimated 1.2 million acres in total.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is still only 3% contained. The active 687 Reamer Fire has burned into the Smokehouse Fire and is now included in the 1,075,000 acres attributed to the blaze.

The Windy Deuce Fire spread to approximately 142,000 acres and is 30% contained. The Grape Vine Creek Fire has burned around 30,000 acres and is 60% contained, while the Magenta Fire covers 2,500 acres and is 65% contained.

With cooler temperatures and calmer winds today, fire activity will “not be as resistant to suppression efforts” compared to Monday and Tuesday, according to the forest service.

Video shows snow accumulation in area affected by Texas wildfires

Guad Venegas

Video from Fitch, Texas, shows snow falling in an area affected by the ongoing Smokehouse Creek Fire.

Smokehouse Creek Fire is officially the largest in Texas history, covering more than 1 million acres

NBC News

The Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County is officially the largest fire in Texas history, now covering an estimated 1,075,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire, only 3% contained as of this morning, earned the title of second-largest in state history after an update yesterday revealed it was already covering 850,000 acres of land.

The East Amarillo Complex Fire in 2006, which clocked in at 907,245 acres, previously held the title of largest fire in Texas history.

Images of residents returning to destroyed homes in the wake of massive Texas fire

NBC News

Gilissa Murray looks over her home that was destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek wildfire, in Canadian, Texas
Gilissa Murray looks over her home that was destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek wildfire, in Canadian, Texas, yesterday. Nick Oxford / Reuters
Homes destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Canadian, Texas
Homes destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Canadian, Texas, yesterday. David Erickson / AP
A burned car rests near the charred remains of a home outside of Canadian, Texas
A burned car rests near the charred remains of a home outside Canadian, Texas, yesterday.Sean Murphy / AP
Wildfires burn and prompt evacuations in Texas
Mason Holloway and Hugh Lively look through the remains of a relative's home that was destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek wildfire in Canadian, Texas, yesterday. Nick Oxford / Reuters
A home burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, in Canadian, Texas.
A home burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, in Canadian, Texas, yesterday. Julio Cortez / AP
Smoldering remains of a home in Canadian, Texas
Smoldering remains of a home in Canadian, Texas, yesterday. David Erickson / AP

Fire crews battling to contain fires ahead of stronger, warmer winds at the weekend

Fire crews are working hard today to combat the enormous wildfire at Smokehouse Creek, before heightened winds tomorrow and into the weekend threatened to make their jobs much harder, the local forest service has said.

“Fire crews are really taking that into consideration, we really want to take advantage of the weather that we have," Juan Rodriguez, public information officer of Texas A&M Forest Service, told NBC News this morning.

He continued: “So, as of today, crews are going to be working on the southern part of the fires. We’re trying to get a lot of those fire edges really buttoned up today.”

The forest service's forecast puts the risk for the Panhandle at "very high" tomorrow, from its current "high" rating.

The Smokehouse Fire, which has reached 850,000 acres and is the second-biggest in Texas history but is only 3% contained, took emergency services by surprise. Rodriguez said the panhandle region is no stranger to fast-moving wildfires, but not with this scale or speed.

"It was caused by high winds on Monday and Tuesday this week. It made those two days extremely receptive to burn," he said.

"It really took everyone by surprise, just the amount of distance that this fire had on it, spreading over 50 miles in a matter of 24 hours was pretty incredible to see."

Smokehouse Creek Fire leaves charred vehicles in its wake

Max Butterworth

Charred vehicles sit at an auto body shop after the property was burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Canadian, Texas, yesterday.

Panhandle Wildfire Texas
Julio Cortez / AP

As wildfires burn, snow is on the way to the Texas Panhandle

These rare winter wildfires come as Texas prepares for an unlikely weather event: historic wildfires met with rain and snow.

The National Weather Service in Amarillo said early today that snow or rain, or a mixture of the two, was due to hit the southwestern Texas Panhandle between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. local time.

A prediction map from NWS show that snow could fall on the Windy Deuce fire north of Amarillo, which covers more than 140,000 acres and is only 30% contained.

Only half an inch of snow is expected, although the NWS said this could rise to a full inch.

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

The Associated Press

FRITCH, Texas. — 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.

“I said, ‘Oh Lord, please don’t come down the middle,’” Ray said.

The mayor estimated up to 50 homes were destroyed near Fritch, with dozens more reportedly consumed by fire in small towns throughout the Panhandle.

The cluster of blazes included a fire that grew into one of the largest in state history. An 83-year-old grandmother from the tiny town of Stinnett was the lone confirmed fatality. However, authorities have yet to make a thorough search for victims and have warned the damage to some communities is extensive.

The cause of this week’s fires is still unknown but dry, warmer than average conditions combined with high winds caused blazes that sparked to grow exponentially, prompting evacuations across a more than 100 mile (160 kilometer) stretch of small towns and cattle ranches from Fritch east into Oklahoma.

Photos showed homes throughout the area reduced to unrecognizable piles of ash and bricks with charred vehicles and blackened earth.

Dramatic wildfire drone video shows scorched, smoldering Texas landscape

NBC News

Drone video, captured about 90 miles northeast of Amarillo, showed a scorched area bordered by two of the Texas wildfires.

Emergency teams activated as wildfires spread into Oklahoma

First responders have been deployed in Oklahoma as wildfires spread throughout the state, having moved east from the Texas Panhandle.

As of last night, at least 12 fires were burning, covering more than 115,000 acres in Oklahoma, including a fire at Slapout in Beaver County, which covered an estimated 76,800 acres and was zero percent contained.

"On the heels of an impactful wildfire, we are preparing for another round of significant fire weather over dry, heavily loaded fuelscapes," the Oklahoma Forestry Commission said in an update.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said yesterday that emergency response teams in the state had been activated.

Smoke rises from a scorched forest

NBC News

Charred tree trunks pictured after the Smokehouse Creek Fire moved through Canadian, Texas, yesterday.

Texas Panhandle Fires
David Erickson / AP file

Eyewitness video shows burned-out buildings in Canadian, Texas

NBC News

Video posted on social media showed burning and blackened buildings in the Texas town of Canadian, at the forefront of the deadly wildfires.

Cruz tells affected Texans to be 'ready to move out of harm's way'

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has said people affected by the wildfires raging through the Texas Panhandle need to be ready to move if necessary.

Posting on X late yesterday, he said: "The fires in the Texas Panhandle are raging ferociously. My team in the state is continuously monitoring the ongoing situation closely."

He added: "We need those who are impacted to listen to your local officials’ warnings and be prepared to move out of harms way."

How to help victims of the Texas wildfires

Well-wishers from Texas and beyond are being urged to donate money and practical items to help people affected by the Texas wildfires, particularly farmers and ranchers in the panhandle.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension said in a Facebook post last night that anyone could donate money to funds run by the Amarillo National Bank and the Hutchinson County United Way Relief Fund.

The Red Cross, which is running a shelter at the Dome Civic and Convention Center in Borger, is asking for essentials such as water, diapers, wet wipes and nonperishable food — but not clothing or furniture.

The Volunteer Fire Department in Stinnett has asked for the same, while a livestock supply point was due to be set up in Pampa with a request for wire, cedar posts, hay, feed and portable diesel.

"Thank you for your love and concern for the residents of Hutchinson County and all the Texas Panhandle towns as we begin to wrap our heads around this disaster," the A&M AgriLife Extension said.

Satellite infrared image reveals areas scorched by wildfire

Max Butterworth

This satellite color infrared image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an active fire line and burn scars from the Smokehouse Creek wildfire northwest of Miami, Texas, yesterday.

Burned vegetation appears in shades of black/gray and healthy, not burned, vegetation appears in shades of red/pink. A cluster of wildfires is scorching the Texas Panhandle, including a blaze that grew into one of the largest in state history. 

Burned vegetation appears in shades of black/grey and healthy, not burned, vegetation appears in shades of red/pink. A cluster of wildfires is scorching the Texas Panhandle, including a blaze that grew into one of the largest in state history.
Maxar Technologies via AP / AP

More than 1 million acres are burning across Texas

An area covering more than 1,500 square miles, more than 1 million acres, was burning across the state of Texas as of 3.30 a.m. ET, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

At least 23 fires were burning — the biggest of them, at Smokehouse Creek, covers more than 850,000 acres and is only 3% contained.

Several smaller fires, many of them in the western part of the state with some covering just 1 acre, have been put out.

‘It was getting hard to breathe’: Texas couple recalls massive wildfire

NBC News

A Texas couple talks to NBC News’ Tom Llamas about the impact of the wildfire burning across the panhandle. Video provided by the couple shows flames from the fire near the motel they own. 

More hot, windy weather in store for weekend

NBC News

The National Weather Service in Amarillo says the region faces a forecast that will likely cause “critical fire weather conditions again.”

Highs will get into the high-70s starting tomorrow, but on Saturday and Sunday high winds of 20 mph to 35 mph are forecast. Heat and high winds help fuel wildfires like those seen in the Texas Panhandle, which are ongoing.

Today, there is a chance of a wintry mix for some of the areas in the panhandle impacted by the fires, the weather service said.