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Satellite images show devastation of Texas wildfires

Among the fires in the Texas Panhandle is the so-called Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in state history, which was only 15% contained Monday.
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An aerial view of the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas.Courtesy Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies

Satellite images released Monday show the devastation wrought by a series of wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, including that of the largest wildfire in state history, which is still largely uncontained.

Two people have died and an estimated 500 structures have been destroyed in the fires, some of which broke out last week and were fueled by high temperatures and winds, officials said.

The largest fire in state records is among the blazes: the so-called Smokehouse Creek Fire, which began Feb. 26 and has grown to around 1,076,638 acres. It was 15% contained Monday.

Some of the increase was due to more accurate mapping, and the numbers could change, the Texas A&M Forest Service has said.

texas panhandle fire damage satellite view
Aerial views of homes, in southern Fritch, Texas, before and after the fires.Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies

The Smokehouse Creek Fire became the largest in state history Thursday.

The largest before had been the East Amarillo Fire of 2006, which was around 907,000 acres, according to statistics from the Texas A&M Forest Service, which is a state agency.

Among the other fires currently burning is the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, which is around 144,000 acres, officials said. It was 55% contained Monday.

The Grape Vine Creek Fire in Gray County was 34,882 acres and 60% contained.

Temperatures in the region were forecast to increase this week, but then a cold front is likely to bring a chance of precipitation starting Friday, the National Weather Service in Amarillo said.

The moisture in the grass has increased, the Texas A&M Forest Service said in an update Monday, meaning it will be easier to fight the fires.

"Overall, burn conditions are markedly improved from yesterday’s weather and the ability to fight fire on the ground is greatly enhanced," the agency said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration because of the fires, and a request for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been approved.

President Joe Biden said late last week that FEMA will guarantee that Texas, as well Oklahoma, will be reimbursed for firefighting efforts.

Federal help has included 500 federal personnel in Texas, including over 100 federal firefighters, “and more are on the way,” Biden said Friday in Brownsville. Aircraft and other equipment have also been sent.

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An aerial view of Canadian, Texas.Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies

"We’re standing with everyone — everyone affected by these wildfires. And we’re going to continue to help you respond and recover," Biden said then.

Abbott's disaster declaration last week covers 60 of the state's 254 counties, or around one-quarter of them. More counties could be added, he said.

Abbott called the wildfires a crisis in an update Monday and said they were the state's top priority.