Berliner Tageblatt - Texas towns evacuated as raging wildfires destroy homes

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Texas towns evacuated as raging wildfires destroy homes
Texas towns evacuated as raging wildfires destroy homes / Photo: © Flower Mound Fire Department/AFP

Texas towns evacuated as raging wildfires destroy homes

Seven wildfires were raging in Texas, including one of the largest in recent state history, authorities said Wednesday, as properties were destroyed and multiple evacuation orders were issued, particularly in the north.

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The Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas' panhandle, a flat northern area known for its prairies and smattering of small towns, was listed as 3 percent contained by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The enormous blaze has already scorched some 850,000 acres (344,000 hectares) -- an area approximately half the size of the state of Delaware.

Following harsh winds and unseasonably warm temperatures, the state was tracking 25 wildfires, 18 of which were contained as of Wednesday afternoon.

Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday declared a state of disaster for 60 counties, while blazes near the northern city of Amarillo temporarily caused the shutdown of a nuclear weapons plant.

In Canadian, one of the towns closest to the fire, there were "quite a few homes burned," Mayor Terrill Bartlett told CNN, but "luckily, no one was severely injured."

According to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, the fire was moving at a rate of two football fields per second.

The National Weather Service in Amarillo, the biggest regional city, said Wednesday that cool temperatures "with weak winds" were expected, which authorities hope will aid them in fighting the fires.

In the town of Borger, authorities shared images of smoldering areas that had been devastated, including several buildings consumed by flames.

Town officials said they had opened a shelter for those displaced, while evacuation orders were issued for much of the nearby town of Fritch, large swaths of which have lost electricity and water.

"I don't think a lot of folks that live in the Fritch area are probably going to be prepared for what they're going to see as they pull into town," Hutchinson County Emergency Management spokeswoman Deidra Thomas said in a video update posted on Facebook earlier in the day.

"There are still homes that are on fire."

President Joe Biden meanwhile was receiving updates on the incident and the White House was in contact with frontline staff, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Amarillo experienced serious air quality issues as winds pushed smoke into the area on Tuesday.

Cities across the United States and Canada saw record February temperatures this week, with some experiencing summer-like heat. An El Nino weather pattern is at play, in addition to climate change, according to experts.