Texas wildfires: Deadly Texas fires burn 1 million acres — largest in state history — and inferno rages

(CNN) – A devastating wildfire sweeping across the Texas Panhandle has killed at least one person and threatens to destroy more homes, livestock and livelihoods as the largest inferno in state history continues to engulf more land every minute.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has now burned more than 1 million acres in Texas alone, making it the largest on record in the state. The fire had burned more than 31,500 acres in Oklahoma as of Wednesday afternoon, the state's Forest Service said.

Inferno is one of five major fires burning in the Texas Panhandle — with no end in sight.

Despite the chance of light rain Thursday, dry air and strong winds are expected to return Friday and into the weekend — which could fuel the flames.

The wildfire has already burned about 2,000 square miles — roughly the same size as the entire state of Delaware.

In Hutchinson County, the Smokehouse Creek Fire claimed the life of 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship, her family said.

“The house is gone,” said his grandson, Nathan Blankenship. “There's no way she can get out.”

Power outages are a major concern, with North Plains Electric Cooperative saying it is “reconstructing approximately 115 miles of the line.”

In Hemphill County alone, 400,000 acres have burned, scores of homes have been destroyed and thousands of livestock have died, said Andy Holloway, Hemphill County AgriLife Extension agent. According to agriculture officials, more than 85% of cattle in Texas are raised on the Panhandle.

In addition to Mammoth Smokehouse Creek FireThe Air duct fire Texas has burned 142,000 acres and was 30% contained as of Thursday morning.

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The Grapevine Creek Fire 30,000 acres burned and 60% contained.

The Magenta fire 65% of the area is 2,500 acres.

The 687 Reamer fire More than 2,000 acres have burned and are 10% contained.

• Texas Governor Greg Abbott authorized additional state resources to fight the blaze, including 94 firefighters, 33 fire engines and six air tankers.

• At least 13 homes have been destroyed in Oklahoma, a state emergency spokesman told CNN. Governor Kevin Stitt has activated emergency response teams. “As we closely monitor wildfires across the state, the safety of our fellow Oklahomans is a top priority,” he posted on X.

• Fritch City, Texas, is under a boil water notice “It's difficult to do because many residents are without electricity and gas,” Hutchinson County announced. Officials said water bottles are being handed out at many churches and other places.

• Amarillo National Bank is launching a Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund with a $1 million donation for wildfire victims, according to a financial institution release.

A sudden change in wind direction caused the Smokehouse Creek Fire to explode in size on Tuesday. As of Thursday, it was still only 3%.

“The wind came straight out of the north and moved a huge wall of fire across the landscape,” Texas A&M Forest Service spokesman Adam Turner said Wednesday.

Greenville Fire-Rescue firefighters drive near the Smokehouse Creek fire that threatened the Texas towns of Canadian and Wheeler on Tuesday.

In the town of Fritz, threatened by several wildfires, Frank Probst makes sure his elderly neighbors escape before they evict him – with almost no time left.

“Our main concern was getting them out first. We were the last to get out,” Propst told CNN.

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His family was unable to grab any of their belongings before fleeing the devastating inferno.

“It happened very quickly. By the time the evacuation sirens went off, it was too late,” he said. “We jumped in the car and took off.”

Mason Holloway and Hugh Lively search for the remains of a relative's home destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas, Canada, on Wednesday.

Tyler McCain and his family woke up to smoky skies over Fritch on Tuesday, so they drove across town to his grandparents, he said. When it became clear the fire was getting worse, McCain's wife returned to the family home to get their two dogs.

When she arrived at her block, she found two of her neighbors' houses on fire. She retrieved the pets and the family stayed overnight in Amarillo.

On Wednesday, the parents and their three daughters returned to a pile of ash and rubble.

Tyler McCain's home has been reduced to charred ruins.

A tearful McCain told CNN that seeing her 3-year-old daughter Addison crying at their home broke her. “Things can change, but it's hard to see your children being ripped out of their lives like that,” she said.

Addison can't stop hearing about losing her home. “She keeps talking about all the things we've lost, and now she's like, 'Dad, are you going to build me a new house?'

McCain regrets not taking enough supplies before they leave. “I keep asking myself why I don't like everything she asks for? Her favorite stuffed animal, why don't I get that for her?” he said.

A satellite image shows Fritch, Texas in August 2023.
Satellite images show homes in Fritch, Texas before (in August 2023) and after (Wednesday) the wildfires.

Satellite images show homes in Fritch, Texas, before (August 2023) and after (Wednesday) the fire.

In Hutchinson County — where the Smokehouse Creek, Windy Deuce and 687 Reamer fires are burning — at least 20 structures were destroyed in Stinnett, a few outside Borger and “some structures” in Fritch, a county official said Wednesday.

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Probst said the Fritch resident, who helped his neighbors and later fled, returned to his neighborhood Wednesday. His home, bought six months ago, is gone, along with all the neighborhoods he passed through on his way to Amarillo, where his family will stay until they figure out what's next.

CNN's Brandon Miller, Carol Alvarado, Amanda Jackson, Monica Garrett, Sheriff Paget, Sarah Tonks, Lucy Kafanov, Andy Babineau and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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