Fires ravage Panhandle: Wildfires burn more than 240,000 acres, prompt evacuations

Five major wildfires that began amid Monday's red flag alert conditions by Tuesday had prompted numerous evacuations and engulfed more than 580,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle, with little chance of slowing soon any time soon.

The largest of the fires, Smokehouse Creek in Stinnett, has singlehandedly burned more than 500,000 acres and is the state's second-largest wildfire. As of Wednesday morning, it is zero percent contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The Texas A&M Forest Service responded to a request for assistance in Hutchinson County on the Hutchinson 0317 Fire
The Texas A&M Forest Service responded to a request for assistance in Hutchinson County on the Hutchinson 0317 Fire

Grapevine Creek, just southeast of Pampa, has burned 30,000 acres and is 15% contained; Windy Deuce along Lake Meredith in Fritch has burned 8,000 acres and is 20% contained; Juliet Pass near Claude has burned 3,000 acres and is 90% contained.

Officials across the affected region are urging residents to relocate.

Moore and Potter counties ordered mandatory evacuations for all residents early afternoon as the fire continued to spread and wind speeds remained high.

Hemphill County Sheriff's Office Brent Clapp wrote in a Facebook post that "it is strongly suggested to evacuate Canadian." The evacuation point is the AgriLife Center in Wheeler, according to the post, after announcing just minutes prior that the evacuation route to Higgins was no longer available as Highway 60 between Glazier and Higgins was shut down.

The Juliet Pass fire in Armstrong County had burned about 3,000 acres as of late Monday.
The Juliet Pass fire in Armstrong County had burned about 3,000 acres as of late Monday.

Roberts County Judge Newton Locke issued a mandatory evacuation order for southeast Roberts County, including the town of Miami, on Tuesday afternoon.

The City of Borger's Office of Emergency Management announced on Facebook that travel is discouraged on highway and rural roads as "numerous wildfires are actively threatening several areas within Hutchinson County."

Current road closures: Highway 136 to Amarillo, Ranch-to-Market road 687, Highway 136 from Stinnett to Amarillo, Highway 83 in Hemphill County and Highway 83 and Highways 23 in Lipscomb County.

The National Weather Service offices in Lubbock and Amarillo issued fire weather warnings and high wind warnings through Tuesday night. Conditions were expected to improve going into Wednesday, when wind speeds will drop to around 10 mph, although low moisture will persist.

In response to the heightened threat of wildfires across the state and the nation, Lubbock Fire Rescue is among departments that have deployed crews as part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS). The decision to mobilize the Lubbock Fire Rescue team is due to the current red flag weather conditions that pose a significant risk across Texas and beyond, according to a news release from LFR on Sunday. TIFMAS, a joint effort among emergency response agencies in the State of Texas, plays a crucial role in managing and dispatching resources to areas in need during times of elevated fire danger. Crews reported to Childress for initial attack pre-positioning and are expected to be on a 2-week deployment.

Map: Texas fire tracker

The fire tracker provides a map with pinpoint locations of each fire and also shows where red flag warnings are in effect, among other information. You can also click on each point to see detailed information on the fire in that area.

If you can't see the map above, click on this link.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Four wildfires burn more than 240,000 acres in Texas Panhandle

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