At Least Two Dead As Crews Battle Historic Wildfires in Texas Panhandle

PANHANDLE (WBAP/KLIF News ) – A second death has been reported as a result of the wildfires that continue to scorch the Texas panhandle.

The family of Cindy Owen said she died on Thursday after being caught in a wildfire near Pampa.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the truck driver got out of her rig which was surrounded by fire but was unable to escape the flames.

Earlier this week, 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship lost her life at her home in Stinnett in what’s now the largest wildfire in Texas history.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which merged with the 687 Reamer Fire, has grown to over one million acres since it erupted on Monday and is only three percent contained, according to the Texas A & M Forest Service.

The massive blaze has destroyed homes, ranch lands, killed livestock and forced evacuations for a time as it burns near Amarillo.

The blaze jumped into parts of Oklahoma.

Fire crews from around the state, including here in North Texas, have been on the ground trying to contain it.

The Texas A & M Forest Service said it’s about three percent contained and has been fueled by the elements.

“Really high winds combined with low humidity has lead to fires pushing across this land so very quickly,” said the Service’s Adam Turner.

On Thursday, a blanket of snow and rain in the region helped firefighters quell the spread of the flames.

Amarillo’s National Service Meteorologist A.J. Harrell said that may be short lived before winds pick up this weekend.

“This is their best chance to hopefully make some progress on getting on top of these. But, over the weekend again we will dry out and the winds do increase which will create fire weather conditions once again,” he said.

There are at about a dozen wildfires currently burning in the state.

Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott will hold a press conference in Borger Friday afternoon to update the public on the state’s response to the wildfires. Borger is about 74 miles west of Canadian.

He will be joined by Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd along with other state and local officials.

Meanwhile, there are numerous relief efforts underway to support the victims of the wildfires. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has set up a link for various donation drives.

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