Texas battles its second-largest wildfire on record – Al Jazeera English

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Wildfires have been raging across the US state of Texas, as firefighters struggled to control one of the largest blazes in state history, which has destroyed property and prompted evacuations.
The Smokehouse Creek fire in Texas’s Panhandle, a flat northern area known for its prairies and smattering of small towns, was listed as only 3 percent contained by the Texas A&M Forest Service.
An 83-year-old grandmother was confirmed dead, but with flames still menacing a wide area, authorities have yet to conduct a thorough search for victims or tally the numerous homes and other structures damaged or destroyed.
The fire has expanded to more than 1,300 square miles (3,370sq km) and jumped into parts of neighbouring Oklahoma. The largest fire recorded in state history was the 2006 East Amarillo Complex fire, which burned about 1,400sq miles (3,630sq km) and resulted in 13 deaths.

Walls of flames were pushed by powerful winds while huge plumes of smoke billowed hundreds of feet in the air across the sparsely populated region. The smoke delayed aerial surveillance of the damage in some areas.
Authorities have not said what ignited the fires, but strong winds, dry grass and unseasonably warm temperatures fed the blazes. Near Borger, a community of about 13,000 people, emergency officials at one point late on Tuesday answered questions from panicked residents on Facebook and told them to get ready to leave if they had not already.

The weather forecast provided some hope for firefighters – cooler temperatures, less wind and possibly rain on Thursday.
Sustained winds of up to 45mph (72kmph), with gusts of up to 70mph (113kmph), caused the fires that were spreading east to turn south, threatening new areas, forecasters said. But winds calmed down after a cold front came through Tuesday evening, said Peter Vanden Bosch, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Amarillo.
Breezy conditions were expected again on Friday, and fire-friendly weather could return by the weekend, Vanden Bosch said on Wednesday.
Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday declared a state of disaster for 60 counties, while blazes near the northern city of Amarillo temporarily caused the shutdown of a nuclear weapons plant.
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