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People Forced To Watch Helplessly As Texas' Largest Wildfire Engulfs Their Town In Devastation

The blaze grew to nearly 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) early Thursday. It merged with another fire and is just 3% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

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AP
A wildfire spreading across the Texas Panhandle has become the largest in state history. Photo: AP
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As the largest wildfire in Texas history, dubbed the Smokehouse Creek fire, continues its rampage, residents of Stinnett, a small town with a population of around 1,600, are reeling from the devastation left in its wake.

Danny Phillips, a resident of Stinnett, described the heart-wrenching experience of watching his neighborhood succumb to flames from a few miles away. "We had to watch from a few miles away as our neighborhood burned," he said, his voice filled with emotion.

Returning evacuees on Thursday were met with scenes of horror: melted street signs, charred remains of vehicles, and homes reduced to piles of ash and rubble. The town's destruction serves as a grim reminder of the relentless force of nature, as firefighters battle against the odds to contain the blaze.

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The Smokehouse Creek fire, which has already claimed two lives, has scorched nearly 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) and is a mere 3% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. It has also crossed into neighboring Oklahoma, exacerbating the challenge faced by firefighters.

The weather, although offering some respite with snowfall aiding firefighting efforts, is expected to worsen in the coming days, with increased temperatures and winds forecasted. This poses a significant threat to containment efforts and the safety of residents and firefighters alike.

Photo: AP
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While the cause of the fires remains under investigation, authorities attribute their rapid spread to strong winds, dry grass, and unseasonably warm temperatures. However, they are utilizing the current precipitation to gain some ground in controlling the inferno.

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President Joe Biden has pledged federal assistance to the affected communities, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of disaster response. Governor Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in 60 counties and plans to visit the impacted areas to assess the situation firsthand.

For residents like Jeremiah Kaslon, who narrowly escaped the flames that consumed his neighbors' homes, the unpredictability of Texas weather adds another layer of uncertainty to an already dire situation. "Around here, the weather, we get all four seasons in a week," he said. "It can be hot, hot and windy, and it will be snowing the next day. It's just that time of year."

The economic toll of the wildfires is also becoming apparent, with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller estimating thousands of cattle deaths and significant losses for individual ranchers. However, he anticipates minimal impact on the overall cattle industry and consumer prices for beef.

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