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Wildfire grows into one of largest in Texas history as flames menace multiple small towns

BY JIM VERTUNO AND SEAN MURPHY

CANADIAN, Texas (AP) — A cluster of wildfires scorched the Texas Panhandle on Wednesday, including a blaze that grew into one of the largest in state history, as flames moved with alarming speed and blackened the landscape across a vast stretch of small towns and cattle ranches.

Authorities warned that the damage to communities on the high plains could be extensive.

Known as the Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest blaze expanded to more than 1,300 square miles (3,370 square kilometers) and jumped into parts of neighboring Oklahoma. It is now larger than the state of Rhode Island, and the Texas A&M Forest Service said the flames were only about 3% contained.

“I believe the fire will grow before it gets fully contained,” said Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The largest fire recorded in state history was the 2006 East Amarillo Complex fire, which burned about 1,400 square miles and resulted in 13 deaths.

Authorities had not reported any deaths or injuries in the sparsely populated counties as of Wednesday, while huge plumes of smoke billowed hundreds of feet in the air. The smoke delayed aerial surveillance of the damage in some areas, but officials warned residents of potentially large property losses.

“There was one point where we couldn’t see anything,” said Greg Downey, 57, describing his escape from the flames as flames bore down on his neighborhood. “I didn’t think we’d get out of it.”

In this photo provided by the Flower Mound, Texas, Fire Department, Flower Mound firefighters respond to a fire in the Texas Panhandle, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. A rapidly widening Texas wildfire doubled in size Tuesday and prompted evacuation orders in at least one small town. (Flower Mound Fire Department via AP)
In this photo provided by the Flower Mound, Texas, Fire Department, Flower Mound firefighters respond to a fire in the Texas Panhandle, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. A rapidly widening Texas wildfire doubled in size Tuesday and prompted evacuation orders in at least one small town. (Flower Mound Fire Department via AP)

 

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE…| AP News

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