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The devastating effects of the wildfires in the Texas panhandle

In+2022%2C+San+Antonio+experienced+a+similar+deadly+wildfire.+Wildfires+are+a+common+threat+in+Texas%2C+causing+devastation+of+homes%2C+cattle%2C+land%2C+and+more.+Photo+courtesy+of+Flickr.
In 2022, San Antonio experienced a similar deadly wildfire. Wildfires are a common threat in Texas, causing devastation of homes, cattle, land, and more. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Destroyed homes, downed power lines, a wasteland of ash and lost livestock is the aftermath left by one of the largest wildfires in Texas history, that has torn through towns and counties in the panhandle of Texas. It has torn through towns and forced farmers to relocate their livestock. 

The Smokehouse Creek Fire started in Hutchinson County and has burned across over a million acres. The Windy Deuce and Grape Vine Creek fires are now almost respectively contained according to CBS News. The wildfires began Feb. 26 near Stinnett, Texas and has left over 11,000 people with no power.   

Multiple deaths have been linked to the fires, including 44-year-old Cindy Owen who was overtaken by the flames Feb. 27 when she exited her truck in Canadian, Texas. She died after she was taken to a hospital. Owen was working north of Pampa, Texas, on Tuesday when the Smokehouse Creek Fire blazed through the area. Another victim, 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship, was found by deputies deceased in her burned home.  

“A lot of progress was made on Tuesday,” said Steven Bekkerus from Texas Panhandle Fires. “Most of the fire activity happened a week ago; we had a big wind event. It really hasn’t grown in size, but there’s still a lot of pockets of vegetation within the fire perimeter. If there is vegetation that hasn’t been burned it can reignite and start burning again. What our firefighters are doing is called a ‘mop-up’, which is verifying that there is no heat out in the landscape and everything on the landscape is truly contained.”  

The severity of these wildfires can be linked to a list of environmental factors. Flammable grass grows tall and thick in the Texas panhandle, which allows fires to climb up to 30 feet high. Record-high temperatures, dry conditions, and a mixture of strong winds combined can also increase the spread of wildfires. The fires have destroyed fences and have left ranchers to relocate livestock as the fires destroyed thousands of cattle.  

As the fire becomes difficult to tame, officials have called in assistance from all over the state. 58 fire engines, ten bulldozers and aerial resources are assisting ground personnel and constructing fire lines while a cold front March 4 played a role in maintaining moderate burning conditions. The cold front also allowed crew members to make progress with mopping up.  

Burn bans are also in effect for Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Gray, Hemphill, Roberts, Potter and Moore counties. For more information on the bans people can visit tfsweb.tame.edu/TexasBurnBans.  

“Ranchers are in desperate need,” said Blair Fannin from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services. “Ranchers are needing hay, feed, and fencing supplies.”  

According to a press release from the financial institution, Amarillo National Bank has started a Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund for wildfire victims with a $1 million donation.  

The cause of these wildfires is still under investigation and while most of fires are almost contained, hundreds of families, ranchers and first responders are now beginning the process of rebuilding following the aftermath these fires caused.  

Esteban Corona is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Esteban Corona, Staff Reporter
Esteban Corona, a sophomore pursuing a major/minor in multimedia journalism and painting. Corona is a staff reporter at The Prospector. After graduation, Esteban plans to continue his endeavors in Journalism while pursuing an artistic career.
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