Texas Panhandle wildfire: Largest fire in state history claims 2 lives

The Smokehouse Creek fire, one of several burning in the Texas Panhandle, is now the largest in the history of the state.

The Texas A&M Forest Service says the fire in Hutchinson County has burned 1,075,000 acres in Texas and Oklahoma and is currently 3% contained, with 1,050,000 acres of that in Texas.

READ MORE: How to help the Texas Panhandle wildfire victims

The Forest Service says the Smokehouse Creek fire has now burned into the 687 Reamer fire, which is also burning in the area.


Two people have died from the wildfire.

83-year-old Joyce Blankenship was found dead inside her house in Stinnett, 70 miles northeast of Amarillo.

Family members say Cindy Owens was the second death due to the wildfire. She was consumed by smoke when trying to drive her truck through the fire. She died from her injuries Thursday.

The Grape Vine Creek Fire in Gray County is at 30,000 acres and 60% contained, the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County at 142,000 acres and 30% contained and the Magenta Fire in Oldham County at 2,500 acres and 65% contained, according to the Forest Service.

"The adrenaline has let down and we're pretty much in shock for the most part, and shock is starting to wear off and reality is starting to set in," Hutchinson County Public Engagement Coordinator Deidra Thomas said.

Thomas said about 20 structures were burned by the Smokehouse Creek fire. 

"We want to reiterate, if we are in an evacuation, or if your area is under an evacuation, we will notify you. You will have on our social media. We will come door to door if that's safe to do," Thomas said.

Additional firefighters from across the state are enroute to help relieve those firefighters who have been working around the clock.

Authorities have not said what they believe started the fires, but they have been fueled by unseasonable warmth and high winds.

Adam Turner is with the Texas A&M Forest Service. He's near Amarillo, which benefitted from snowfall Thursday.

"We got some beneficial snow [Thursday] morning, actually, just enough to really kind of put a little bit more of a damper on that fire," Turner said.

Turner said it gave firefighters a much-needed helping hand in trying to contain the fire.

"It is quite burned. Behind me, it's very black. It goes all the way to, the one of the canyons that the Canadian River goes through. You can still see a just a little bit of snow back there on that canyon," Turner said.

But it is expected to be short-lived. Warm, dry and breezy conditions will return in time for the weekend.

DeSoto firefighters called to the region posted a photo of a snow shower in Fritch, Texas.


(Source: DeSoto Fire Department)

Emergency personnel are fighting the fire from all angles. Drone footage captured the charred remains of many neighborhoods. Several vehicles were also caught up in the flames.

Strong winds, dry grass, and unseasonably warm temperatures fed the flames before Thursday’s small reprieve. 

"We have had some locals who have had to deal with, you know, damage of their own homes and structures. And they've been out working to protect their neighbors’ properties just as much as their own," Turner said.

The chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management is warning folks in the area not to let their guard down.

"Friday and into the weekend, you're going to see some adverse weather conditions come back to us. I don't want the community to feel a false sense of security that all of these fires won't grow anymore. It's a very dynamic situation," Nim Kidd said.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller estimated the number of cattle killed in the fires to be in the thousands, with more likely to come.

Miller said individual ranchers could suffer devastating losses.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties. On Wednesday, he directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to deploy additional resources to the area.

READ MORE: North Texas fire crews battle wildfires in Texas Panhandle

The Texas Interstate Fire Mutual Aid System was activated and several firefighters from North Texas have been called into action to help with the efforts.

You can look at an interactive map of the wildfires from the Texas A&M Forest Service here.

Largest Fire in Texas History


The Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County is now the largest fire in Texas history, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

  1. Smokehouse Creek (2024) - 1,050,000 acres
  2. East Amarillo Complex (2006) - 907,245 acres
  3. Big Country (1998), 366,000 acres
  4. Perryton (2017), 318,156 acres
  5. Rockhouse Fire (2011) 314,444 acres

Live Radar Texas

Fire crews are hopeful that the weather can help them make progress against the wildfires in the Texas Panhandle.

Rain and a wintry mix is expected in the Panhandle on Thursday, but dry and windy temperatures are expected to return by the weekend.