Biggest wildfire in Texas history is almost fully contained as wetter weather moves in

There is still fire risk in the area, but experts say there isn’t currently fire spread.

By Sarah AschMarch 14, 2024 12:18 pm,

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest wildfire to ever burn in Texas, is now nearly completely contained after spreading across roughly 1.1 million acres.

But as responders continue to fight the last of the blaze, officials warned they could be facing another hurdle in the Panhandle: critical fire weather.

Erin O’Connor, public information officer for the Texas A&M Forest Service, said the worst of the fire risk weather has already passed as of Thursday.

“We do still have some risk this morning,” she said. “We were having some of those dry conditions, winds again that we saw two weeks ago when all of our activity kind of started with the additional dormant grasses in the area. But as [a] cold front moves across the state, we’re going to see a change in our wind speeds, a drop in our temperatures and potentially some moisture moving in, which will be very beneficial.”

» MORE: Smokehouse Creek Fire was ignited by power line, A&M Forest Service says

The Smokehouse Creek Fire and the Windy Deuce Fire are no longer experiencing fire growth, O’Connor said.

“But with fires this large, it’s a lot to try to do what we call ‘mop up,'” she said. “So they’re patrolling, they’re monitoring, they’re walking the perimeter and making sure that there’s no heat or hot spots that are close to those containment lines, because what we don’t want is that when we do have these dry, windy days, is for something to ignite and then move across those containment lines.

“So our firefighters are being conservative. They’re making sure that everything is completely out before we say that it is fully contained.”

O’Connor said the biggest concern is always life safety — both for the public and for firefighters. She urged people to minimize behavior that could cause fires.

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“In the state of Texas, most of our fires are actually caused by humans and their activities,” she said. “More than 90% of our fires are caused by humans. So it could be something as simple as a spark when someone’s mowing their lawn, a roadside start if someone pulls over on the side of the road and there’s dry grass there. Little things like that can ignite a wildfire. And that’s typically the majority of our starts.”

O’Connor said damage is still being assessed in the Panhandle.

“Certainly very impactful to the communities up in that region. A fire that large has burned through, you know, communities, agricultural fields. It’s impacted people’s livelihoods,” she said. “They’re still assessing, still doing those damage assessments and really determining what the impacts of this fire will be.”

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