Largest wildfire in Texas history continues 

Jonathan Stuckey, Texas AgriLife Today

March 1, 2024

Dozer-on-Smokehouse-Creek-Fire

Texas A&M Forest Service encourages caution, prevention as wildfire potential increases over the weekend 

The largest wildfire in Texas history is actively burning today with additional threats going into the weekend.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire that started in Hutchinson County has burned a total of 1,075,000 acres across Texas and Oklahoma and is 3% contained.

Since Feb. 25, Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to 56 wildfires burning more than 1,256,328 acres. 

There are three additional active wildfires in the Texas Panhandle today: the Grape Vine Creek Fire in Gray County at 30,000 acres and 60% contained; the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County at 142,000 acres and 30% contained; and the Magenta Fire in Oldham County at 2,500 acres and 65% contained.

The potential for wildfire activity will increase again for the High Plains region March 2-3 due to strong winds and dry fuels.

“Strong winds and warm temperatures have resulted in grasses drying across many portions of Texas,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “As firefighters continue to suppress active fires, we urge Texans to be cautious with any outdoor activity that may cause a spark.”

Areas with dry grass may support wildfire activity due to accidental ignitions from activities that cause a spark, including fireworks.

Safety on Texas Independence Day

As Texans make plans to celebrate Texas Independence Day on March 2, they should use extreme caution when using fireworks or any other outdoor activity.

Approximately 90% of wildfires are caused by humans and their activities, and holidays and celebrations can pose an increased risk of fire starts. 

“Let’s celebrate Texas Independence Day with pride and responsibility,” said Karen Stafford, Texas A&M Forest Service fire prevention coordinator. “This weekend, let’s honor our heritage by preventing fires. Do your part to prevent wildfires and be safe this holiday.”

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public show hosted by professionals. If you plan to set off your own fireworks, please follow these safety tips:

  • Before you celebrate, always check and comply with local government officials for any burn bans or other restrictions. 
  • Read and follow all warnings and instruction labels on fireworks. 
  • Use fireworks only under close adult supervision and in safe areas away from structures, dry grass and brush. 
  • Keep a hose, bucket of water and wet towels nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
  • Dispose of used fireworks in a bucket of water. 
  • Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially glass or metal.

To help prevent wildfires during windy and dry conditions:

  • Avoid parking and idling in tall, dry grass. Catalytic converters can get hot enough to ignite the grass under a vehicle.
  • Ensure chains and other metal parts aren’t dragging from your vehicle — they throw sparks.
  • Avoid placing your grill near flammable vegetation or materials, never leave your grill unattended and ensure coals are completely extinguished when you are done.

Burn bans and fireworks restrictions are determined by county government. Texas A&M Forest Service does not determine, set or lift these restrictions.

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