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US: Wildfire in Texas largest in state's history

March 1, 2024

The Smokehouse Creek fire has burned more than a million acres across Texas and neighboring Oklahoma and is now the largest fire ever recorded in the state's history.

A drone view shows firefighters spraying trees with water after the Smokehouse Creek fire burned through the area in Roberts County, Texas, U.S., February 28, 2024.
The largest fire previously was the 2006 East Amarillo Complex fire which burned about 1,400 square miles Image: Nathan Frandino/REUTERS

The Smokehouse Creek fire in the northern Texas region known as Texas Panhandle has gone on to become the largest in the state's history, the Texas A&M Forest Service said Friday.

The blaze grew to nearly 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) and has merged with another fire. The blaze was spreading to neighboring Oklahoma and is just 3% contained, according to the forest service.

The fire's explosive growth was slowed Thursday as snow fell and temperatures dipped, but it was still untamed and threatening. 

Firefighters in gears dip out fire amid the snow, a firetruck can be seen in the background
Snow gave firefighters a brief respite amid desperate efforts to control the fireImage: Ty O'Neil/AP/dpa/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden, who was in Texas on Thursday to visit the US-Mexico border, said he has directed federal officials to do "everything possible" to assist the communities afflicted.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has guaranteed Texas and Oklahoma will be reimbursed for their emergency costs, the president said.

An 83-year-old woman was the only confirmed death so far this week. But with the fires still growing, a tally for people and structures affected is yet to be finalized.

Hot, dry conditions fuel fire

Even though wildfire outbreaks are common in the region at this time of the year, the temperatures this week were unseasonably high.

The forest service also said that firefighters had contained 85% of another fire that covered some 3,300 acres.

By contrast, the Smokehouse Creek Fire is burning a total of 1,075,000 acres across Texas and Oklahoma, according to the forest service.

Since Sunday February 25, the state forest service has responded to 56 wildfires burning more than 1,256,328 acres.

rm/jsi (AP, AFP)