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Wildfires have scorched the Texas Panhandle. Here are some resources and ways to help

Wildfires spreading through the Texas Panhandle last week.
Screenshot from Texas A&M Forest Service
The Texas Tribune
Wildfires spreading through the Texas Panhandle last week.

Updated as of March 7, 2024 at 3:00 p.m.

Wildfire season

The biggest wildfire in Texas history burned last week and moved fast due to high wind speeds between 40 and 60 miles per hour that swept through the High Plains. The cluster of fires has spread through most of Robert and Hemphill County and is still currently active.

Over a million acres have been burned in Texas and Oklahoma. As of Monday, the fires have been 37% contained.

Xcel Energy, a utility company has acknowledged their power lines ignited the Smokehouse Creek fire that covered 1,700 square miles, spilling into Oklahoma.

Claims due to loss of property or livestock and be filed with them.

Many counties in the High Plains including southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle are on high alert due to low humidity combined with warm weather and high winds, which increase the risk of fires.

Wildfire season usually peaks in February and early March, when all of the moisture from January has dried up, leaving vegetation ready to burn.

The High Plains region experienced a wetter summer last year which was beneficial for agriculture. But it also produced more grasses and fuel to be burned.

Aaron Williams, fire management officer for the Kansas Forest Service in southwest Kansas, says fires are most often accidental.

“What we are seeing more and more now is fires burning year-round," Williams said.

Williams says keeping your vehicle and farming equipment in check can help reduce the chances of a spark causing an uncontrolled fire, especially with high winds.

A lot of farmers and ranchers lost crops, livestock and land from the fires, but the region is trying to pull together resources for these communities.

Tracking fires in you area

Resources for agriculture

Mental health

  • Disaster Distress Helpline provides support to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters, including wildfires. Call or text 800-985-5990.
  • AgriStress Helpline is a resource available for those who work in agriculture and can provide crisis support. Call or text 833-897-2474.

How to help

  • The Amarillo Area Foundation’s Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund was created specifically for situations like this one and is a good source for donations.
  • The Amarillo Fire Department is accepting donations of fresh food and hard goods. (Contact 806-273-0955.)
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has resources on making monetary donations to specific counties and supplies needed.

Additional resources

  • Listen to local authorities about safety hazards and latest information for your specific area.
  • Shelters are available in the region from disasters.
  • Here is a list of counties under Red Flag warnings in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles.
  • Keep track with your local National Weather Service Station for weather updates and fire risks.
Calen Moore is the western Kansas reporter for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can reach him at cmoore@hppr.org.