February 29, 2024

Massive wildfires disrupting travel across Texas, Oklahoma


A cluster of wildfires that began on Monday in the Texas Panhandle forced thousands to flee their homes, while also making travel difficult for truckers and motorists.

Texas authorities temporarily closed Highway 136 between the Borger and Amarillo Tuesday, but the roadway was reopened Wednesday. 

Interstate 40 near Amarillo remains open, but authorities have urged motorists to avoid traveling through the roadway due to excessive smoke, as well as allowing emergency responders the space to work on controlling the fire.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire that started near the Texas town of Canadian on Monday is already one of the largest fires in state history, engulfing over 850,000 acres. The fire around Canadian was only 3% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

“Getting around the eastern flank of the Canadian Texas Wildfire! 2-27-24 We almost got boxed in! Prayers to all the affected families and first responders!” Chris Lockhart, a truck driver and social media content creator, posted on Facebook Tuesday.

Canadian resident Sam Ciaramitaro posted a video of tractor-trailers navigating the burning roadways out of the town on Tuesday.

“At least 30 homes in town burned to the ground,” he wrote. “Three displaced people staying here, most evacuated and don’t even know their homes are burned yet. It’s been a hell of a day.”

Texas A&M Forest Service said on Wednesday that the Smokehouse Creek Fire is part of an outbreak of about 15 wildfires in Texas. As of Wednesday afternoon, five of the wildfires, including Smokehouse Creek, were still active.

“Texas A&M Forest Service responded to 8 new requests for assistance from wildfires burning 4,044 acres across the state,” the agency said.

Officials have not determined what started the giant blaze. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 Texas counties.

A tweet from the Flower Mound Fire Department shows some of the devastation caused by the wildfires in Texas.

Oklahoma Forestry Services said it was providing assistance in the fight against 32 uncontained fires across the state, with more than 30,000 acres burned as of Tuesday. 

Several road closures were also reported by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Tuesday due to wildfires, including U.S.Route 283 and County Road 37 to State Highway 15. The road has since reopened.

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