Texas Panhandle Scorched by State's Biggest Wildfire Ever

Mar 1, 2024

How Big is 1 Million Acres?

Wildfires sweeping the Texas panhandle, including a blaze that’s scorched 1.1 million acres, the largest in Texas's history, have killed one woman and thousands of cattle. They've also burned scores of homes in their paths, officials said.   

The Smokehouse Creek Fire began as a swiftly moving grass fire. Then it grew into a giant inferno Tuesday. This came after a shift in wind direction. The blaze is only 3% contained. It's spread into Oklahoma. There, it has burned more than 31,000 acres. The total area torched by the wildfire is five times larger than New York City. 

"It's almost like gasoline when it goes up," Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told Reuters. Miller described the charred farmland left behind as resembling a “moonscape.” 

Four other blazes — the Windy Deuce, the Grape Vine Creek, the Magenta, and the 687 Reamer fires — have burned a combined 177,000 acres. They were between 10% and 65% contained as of early Thursday.

Shifting temperatures, dry weather, and fierce winds have fueled these fires. Yet, officials hoped a brief spell of precipitation on Thursday might help firefighters get the upper hand in battling them.  

The Smokehouse Creek Fire killed 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship, according to family members. Rancher Jeff Chisum, whose 30,000-acre ranch went up in flames, described for The New York Times walking with surviving calves along a road of dead cows. A local sheriff returned home Wednesday to find his house burned to the ground.  

Fritch resident Frank Probst told CNN the fires erupted so quickly that there wasn’t time to collect valued belongings.

“By the time the evacuation sirens went off, it was too late,” he said. “We just jumped in the car and took off.” 

Reflect: What challenges might a community recovering from a wildfire face in the days following the tragedy?

What word, used in the opening paragraph, means “burned”? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. sweeping
b. blaze
c. scorched
d. panhandle
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