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One of the largest wildfires in Texas history is still burning in the Texas Panhandle

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.
AP
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Flower Mound Fire Department
In this photo provided by the Flower Mound, Texas, Fire Department, Flower Mound firefighters respond to a fire in the Texas Panhandle on Tuesday.

Firefighting crews on Wednesday continued battling a near-record size wildfire scorching the Texas Panhandle. The fire has already affected more than 500,000 acres, as high wind speeds and dry weather conditions continue to fuel the blaze.

The Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County is the largest fire among a handful burning across the Amarillo area. The fire was zero % contained as of Wednesday morning, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The outbreak of wildfires prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration Tuesday for 60 counties in the area. The state has also activated the Texas Department of Emergency Management to initiate increased firefighting response resources.

The Smokehouse Creek fire has so far burned almost 800 square miles and is the second-largest blaze in Texas history, the Associated Press reported. The fire also forced the Pantex plant, a nuclear weapons facility located about 20 miles from Amarillo, to temporarily evacuate nonessential personnel Tuesday night. As of Wednesday morning, however, Pantex was back to normal operations.

Terrill Bartlett, the mayor of Canadian, Texas, in Hemphill County, told CNN on Wednesday morning that about half of the town’s residents were able to evacuate Tuesday night but a change in wind patterns forced the other half to shelter in place.

“Smoke and flames prevented anyone from leaving to the south, [while] the north highways leading out of town had been closed for some time,” he said. “Luckily no one was severely injured, no one lost their lives but there were quite a few homes burned.”

As of Wednesday morning, Bartlett said that he didn’t know the exact number of structures that had been destroyed and said emergency crews were still assessing the damage and relocating displaced residents.

There was some hope that cooler weather Wednesday would aid firefighters in their efforts after fire activity decreased overnight, according to the Weather Channel.

“Weather conditions are trending more favorable for firefighters on Wednesday with high pressure in control, which means much lighter winds, colder temperatures and higher humidity. There's even a chance of snow tonight into early Thursday,” Weather.com’s senior meteorologist Chris Dolce wrote.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Julián Aguilar | The Texas Newsroom
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