State of Disaster Declared as Wildfires Spread In Texas. What to Know

State of Disaster Declared as Wildfires Spread In Texas. What to Know

A series of raging wildfires sweeping across the Texas Panhandle have caused a state of disaster in 60 counties and led to forced evacuations in a number of U.S. towns. 

The largest fire—which broke out Monday at Smokehouse Creek, north of Amarillo—has now grown to twice its original size and burned through 300,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. While authorities remain unsure about the cause of the fires, its ferocity has been aided by strong winds and dry grass paired with warm temperatures. 

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday, calling on the Texas Division of Emergency Management to bring forward additional emergency response efforts to support local firefighters. 

“Hot and dry conditions caused by high temperatures and windy conditions are expected to continue in the region in the coming days,” Abbott said in a statement. “These conditions could increase the potential for these wildfires to grow larger and more dangerous.” 

He called on Texans to “to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe.” 

The blaze also led to the shutdown of a nuclear weapons facility at Pantex on Tuesday night, before resuming “normal day shift operations” on Wednesday morning, according to Pantex’s post on X (formerly Twitter). 

At least 4,791 energy customers have also been left without power on Wednesday, according to energy-tracker

While rain and cooler temperatures are anticipated by Thursday, authorities have so far struggled to maintain the fires.

As the Texas wildfires rage on, here’s what you need to know.

Which areas have been affected by the Texas wildfires?

The wildfires are spreading across the Texas Panhandle, an almost 26,000-square-mile region in the U.S. state of Texas that consists of its 26 northernmost counties. 

Citizens of the Mesilla Park area of Potter County were hit with a mandatory evacuation order on Tuesday, while authorities in other regions across northern Texas have encouraged Texans to flee their homes as the fires continue to burn. 

Several other communities have received evacuation warnings, including the Moore and Potter counties, which are close to the Oklahoma border. Hemphill County residents were advised to follow suit as the fires reached Canadian, a town home to 2,200 residents, located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Amarillo. 

Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office later urged those remaining in Canadian to stay put or shelter at the high school gym as roads had been closed.

The Moore County Sheriff’s Office said the Double Diamond area west of Fritch has been affected by an emergency evacuation alert. “Due to the approaching fire it’s imperative to evacuate the area for your safety and well-being,” the office said in a statement directing citizens to a local church to shelter in. 

Evacuations are also taking place in Skellytown, Wheeler, Allison, and Briscoe, according to the National Weather Service in Amarillo.

What have officials said about the Texas wildfires?

Texas senator Ted Cruz shared evacuation help for those fleeing their homes, saying “As we continue to monitor the Panhandle fires, shelters have opened up for those impacted.” Cruz listed the locations for four shelters that had been established in a youth center and local churches.  

Officials in Hutchinson County shared a statement on Facebook, shedding light on the gravity of the situation while offering locals advice, according to Sky News. “We have areas without power, water, and active burning,” the statement said. “Pray for the safety of all involved. And pack your go bag just in case. That is the best information we know how to provide right now.”
Moore County Sheriff’s Office, who are assisting Hutchinson County’s evacuation efforts, shared a Facebook post saying, “We have seen tragedy today and we have seen miracles. Today was a historic event we hope never happens again.”

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