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Wildfires burn half a million acres, prompt evacuation orders in Texas Panhandle

Firefighters respond to a fire in the Texas Panhandle. Associated Press/Flower Mound Fire Department

Wildfires burn half a million acres, prompt evacuation orders in Texas Panhandle

The Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, resumed operations Wednesday after closing the day before due to uncontrolled wildfires in the area. The facility builds and disassembles nuclear weapons. The largest fire threatening the plant is the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has burned more than 500,000 acres since Monday, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Dry weather, strong winds, and warm temperatures contributed to the series of fires, according to the National Weather Service office in Amarillo. The weather service predicted cooler temperatures and a mix of rain and snow would move into the region on Thursday.

How has the state responded to the fire? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties on Tuesday. Dozens of cities and towns issued evacuation orders and shelter-in-place advisories in the Texas Panhandle and for bordering Oklahoma communities. The Texas Department of Transportation warned residents to stay off some roads and highways due to poor visibility from smoke.

How is the fire affecting residents? The fire burned many homes around the city of Canadian, Hemphill County Judge Lisa Johnson told The Canadian Record. More than 200 people took shelter at the Celebration Family Church in the city of Fritch, pastor Dwight Kirksey told CNN. The fires threatened ranchers across the region and could have devastating effects on the agricultural community, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission. The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association launched a fundraising campaign for victims of the fires.

Dig deeper: Read Christina Grube’s report in World Tour about how a ministry is helping the victims of wildfires in Chile.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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