Largest wildfire in Texas history rages out of control, 1 dead

Largest wildfire in Texas history rages out of control, 1 dead

Nearly 1.2 million acres of land scorched, homes destroyed, thousands evacuated

By Darren Lyn

HOUSTON, US (AA) - Wildfires continued to rage out of control in the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, scorching nearly 1.2 million acres of land so far, making it the largest blaze in state history, according to forestry officials.

At least one person is reported dead after emergency officials said the fire engulfed the Hutchinson County home of 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship.

"The house was gone," said her grandson Nathan Blankenship in an interview with CNN. "There was no way she could’ve gotten out."

Thousands of residents have been evacuated from communities throughout the panhandle region in the northernmost part of the state. Roads and highways have been shut down due to heavy smoke and zero visibility.

Fire officials said the Smokehouse Creek Fire is the largest of several wildfires, which has charred more than 1 million acres by itself. That blaze has merged with two other wildfires to form an uncontrollable inferno due to the hot, dry and windy conditions which have made the environment ripe for the blazes to burn out of control, according to authorities. The wildfires were only 3% contained as of Thursday.

“Wind was coming straight out of the north and made just this massive wall of fire moving across the landscape,” Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Adam Turner told CNN.

To put the enormous scope of the wildfires into perspective, officials said 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) of land have been scorched to this point, which is equivalent to the size of the state of Delaware.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for the panhandle region, authorizing nearly 100 additional emergency workers, 33 fire engines and six air tankers to help fight the fires.

Wildfires are also spreading across the neighboring state of Oklahoma, where emergency response teams have already been activated to battle those blazes.

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