Wildfires still not under control as they spread across Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle

FILE PHOTO: Wildfires burn and prompt evacuations in Texas


With more than a million acres burned in wildfires that started in the Texas Panhandle and swept into western Oklahoma, officials feared the blazes would only grow over the weekend with little of them under control. Strong winds swept across the region on Saturday and Sunday, only making the fight even more difficult in both states.

The fires have left two dead in the Texas Panhandle including truck driver Cindy Owen who fled her truck north of Pampa, Texas and tried to outrun the flames. Eighty-three year old Joyce Blankenship was another victim—caught in her Hutchinson County home that was destroyed.

As of the weekend,, only about 15% of the fire in Texas, now the state’s largest ever, had been contained by firefighters. Gov. Greg Abbott has said an estimated 500 structures had been burned in the wildfires. The size of the wildfires in the two states is about the same area as the entire state of Delaware.

“Frequently when you see the aftermath of that damage, there is some semblance of a structure that is still there,” Abbott said. “When you look at the damages that are here, it’s just gone. Completely gone. Nothing left but ashes on the ground, so those who have gone through this have gone through utter devastation.”

The Oklahoma Forestry Division reported Sunday that Oklahoma’s side of the monstrous Smokehouse fire that originated in Texas was about 60% containted in the state. In Oklahoma, it burned in Ellis and Roger Mills counties next to the state line.

The Slapout Fire in Beaver County had burned more than 26,000 acres and was 75% containted, according to the Forestry Division. Firefighting officials were still wary of the potential for more fires.

” Both fire weather and fuels conditions will be most aligned in northwestern Oklahoma where significant fire potential (fires >5,000 acres) will rapidly develop. Challenging initial attack and large fire potential (fires >100 acres timber/300 acres grass) should be anticipated across the Warned Area,” warned the Division.

Beyond the human toll, ranchers whose pastures were darkened by the fast-moving fires are counting their losses of cattle. It could be in the hundreds or perhaps thousands. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told Reuters last week he fears the wildfires killed tens of thousands of livestock. He is unsure of the exact numbers lost but said “the number is going to be very large.”

“It looks like a moonscape up there,” Miller said. “There’s absolutely zero vegetation. The cattle that do survive, they have absolutely nothing to eat.”

Western Oklahoma farmers and ranchers have pitched in and donated hay to the victims, according to KOCO TV News.

Ranchers in northeast Oklahoma are doing the same, reported KOTV 6 News.

Similar efforts have been made by farmers and ranchers in southern Kansas, according to KWCH TV in Wichita.

For the ranchers in Texas, it is a somber time as they learn how many cattle they lost.

“We’re picking up deads today,” X-Cross-X Ranch operator Chance Bowers told the Associated Press. A bulldozer was used to move dozens of blackened carcasses on the side of a road where a giant claw hook loaded them into the back of an open trailer.

“These cows you see dead are worth between $2,500 and $3,000 apiece,” Bowers said. “Financially, it’s a massive, massive burden on us.”

He told the AP the ranch will likely lose 250 head of cattle.