On Wednesday, 850,000 acres of the second-largest wildfire in Texas history burned as firefighters from all around the state attempted to contain it. Houses have been destroyed, large ranch lands have burnt, animals have perished, and the sparsely populated Texas Panhandle has been forced to evacuate due to the fire.

Fueled by strong winds and dry weather, the fire, known as the Smokehouse Creek fire, started on Monday and by Wednesday had spread across large areas of ranch land. It was still growing and had not been confined, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.


Satellite data from the National Interagency Fire Center suggested that the fire had already become the largest ever seen in the state.

The fire spread around the town of Canadian, a cattle-country community of around 2,200 people northeast of Amarillo, near the Oklahoma state line. Residents who had not already evacuated were forced to shelter in place overnight.

About 35 people, mostly residents who tried to leave but found the roads closed by the fire, took shelter in a “safe room” at the emergency operations center, said Lisa Johnson, the Hemphill County judge, who also spent the night there.


Other residents huddled in a local church, the pastor there said.Some simply stayed at home and hoped for the best.
“There is a lot of stuff that’s just gone,” said Cody Cameron, 56, who said he and his wife had been at home trying to gather up their three cats when the roads into and out of Canadian were closed on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, the roads had reopened, and the ground was blackened on both sides of Highway 60 for about 10 miles approaching town.

A portion of the fire got close to Mr. Cameron’s backyard during the night, he said, but then it died away. “We got lucky,” he said.

Officials said there had been no deaths or severe injuries attributed to the fire so far.


The blaze tore across ranches, overtaking cattle and forcing ranchers to try to save their own properties. “I was out here fighting the fire two days straight,” said Jeff Chisum, whose family owns a 30,000-acre cattle ranch in Roberts County.

Nearly all of the land had burned, he said, but family members were able to protect the buildings using pickup trucks with firefighters in the back. “One guy driving, one or two guys in the back, just run down the line and try to turn it away,” Mr. Chisum said of how they poured water on the flames.
Of his approximately 600 livestock, some escaped the fire, but others did not. He remarked, “We lost some, and there are some that we have to shoot who are burnt up but still alive.” “It’s difficult to accept whenever something like this occurs and destroys everything we love about the country and the animals.”

About 200 firefighters were battling many wildfires throughout the Panhandle, the majority of them were concentrated on the Smokehouse Creek fire, according to a Forest Service spokesperson. The use of planes to try to stop the fires from spreading was hindered by high winds. F

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