Dry Winds Could Spread Texas Wildfires Over the Weekend


Wildfires continued to burn out of control in northern Texas on Friday morning, and officials warned that warm, windy and dry weather was expected to return over the weekend that could fan the flames.

The National Weather Service forecast “critical fire weather conditions” in the region on Saturday and Sunday, and urged residents to refrain from outdoor activities that might generate sparks or flames over the weekend, which includes Texas Independence Day on Saturday.

A fire weather watch was posted for Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening, covering the Texas Panhandle and nearby parts of Oklahoma.

Five fires were still active in the Panhandle on Friday morning, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Three of them were more than 50 percent contained, but the largest — the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which ignited on Monday was only 15 percent contained as of Friday morning, the authorities said. The Smokehouse Creek fire has charred at least 1,075,000 acres of land, making it the largest wildfire on record in Texas history. But most of the burn zone received some precipitation on Thursday, and the fire did not grow.

The Panhandle is cattle country. and ranchers have been able to do little but watch as the grasslands that their livestock rely on for food have been burned. Thousands of cattle may have died in the blazes or been so badly injured that they would have to be killed, the authorities said.

With officials still focused on containing the fires, definitive assessments of damage have not yet been compiled.

The cause of the Smokehouse Creek blaze is not yet known. On Thursday a utility company, Xcel Energy, said in a regulatory filing that it had received a letter from a law firm on behalf of property insurers, warning that the utility faced potential liability for damage in connection with the fire.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas was traveling to the Panhandle on Friday for a briefing on the fires and a news conference in the afternoon.

Mr. Abbott granted temporary waivers on Thursday to three state agencies, freeing them to use all available resources to support communities affected by the fires.

In a speech on Thursday at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, President Biden said that in response to requests from Texas officials, he had deployed federal resources to help fight the flames. He urged residents of the area near the fires to listen to their local officials.

“When disasters strike, there’s no red states or blue states where I come from,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re standing by everyone affected by these wildfires, and we’re going to continue to help you respond and recover.”

David Goodman contributed reporting.

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