Smokehouse Creek wildfire now #1 in size, in Texas history

Smokehouse Creek wildfire now biggest in Texas history

A cold front pushed through the Texas Panhandle on Monday, bringing high winds. And that’s when the fire started and began to spread. As of this morning (March 1, 2024), the Smokehouse Creek fire is only 5% contained. During the day yesterday, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported that the fire had burned over 1 million acres, ranking it among the largest of North American wildfires and making it #1 in Texas history. 

The previous record-holder for largest fire in the state of Texas was the East Amarillo Complex fire in 2006. It burned 907,000 acres overall.

Map of Texas with Smokehouse Creek fire labeled at the north.
The Smokehouse Creek fire appears to be the northernmost of the big fires burning now in the Texas Panhandle, according to this map from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Only 3% contained so far

At this writing (9:30 a.m. on February 29), the Smokehouse Creek fire is still raging, with only 3% containment.

Temperatures in the Texas Panhandle dipped temporarily on Tuesday, as a cold front moved through the area. As a result, winds associated with the cold front caused the fires to change from an eastward advance to a southward advance. On Tuesday, winds were gusting up to 65 miles an hour (105 kph).

But later, the wind gusts had died down by Wednesday to up to 19 miles an hour (30 kph). Also, throughout this week, low humidity has made for dry air.

On Thursday, some media around Amarillo, Texas – in the southern Texas Panhandle – were reporting rain and snow.

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Wildfire affecting humans and animals

The wildfires in the Texas Panhandle have caused evacuations and school closures. In particular, on Tuesday, the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo paused operations and evacuated nonessential personnel until it was deemed safe to continue normal operations.

Both horses and cattle have been running from the flames in the Texas Panhandle.


Texas cattle stampede away from plumes of smoke as wildfires covering 300,000 acres force thousands to evacuate.

? original sound – nbcnews

@cbsnews As the Texas Panhandle battles out-of-control wildfires – including one that alone is an estimated 500,000 acres – horses were seen running along a highway trying to escape the smoke and flames. #texas #wildfire #news ? original sound – cbsnews

A view of the Texas wildfires from above

Wildfire: Bright patches of red extending on a dark background.
This is a satellite image of the fires in the Texas Panhandle. On Wednesday, the biggest wildfire – the Smokehouse Creek fire – grew to larger than the state of Rhode Island. Image via CIRA/ NOAA 20/ NOAA 21/ S-NPP.

More about Texas fires on social media

Meanwhile, in neighboring Oklahoma and faraway Australia

Nearby northwestern Oklahoma is also being plagued with wildfires this week. As a result, officials reported some structures and livestock have been lost.

Also, as the wildfires rage in the Texas Panhandle and in nearby Oklahoma, bushfires are raging in parts of Australia, on the opposite side of Earth’s globe. It’s late summer now in the Southern Hemisphere. And hot, dry and windy conditions have made Australia ripe for fire danger. In fact, fires have been raging for more than a week in Victoria, a state in the southeastern part of Australia that contains the city of Melbourne. At this time, the fires are west of Melbourne, a city of five million.

Bottom line: A Texas wildfire is now the largest in the state’s history. Oklahoma is also battling wildfires. And in Australia, where it’s now late summer, fires have been raging for more than a week, west of the city of Melbourne.

Read more: This Is Wildfire: Tips on preparing yourself and your home

March 1, 2024

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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