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Special report: After the Smokehouse Creek Fire

Gideon Rogers

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which ravaged the Texas Panhandle in February and March, left a trail of devastation. The record-breaking blaze, scorching over one million acres, claimed the lives of two people and destroyed hundreds of homes and structures. Ranchers mourned the loss of countless livestock, and the agricultural heartland was left scarred.

Recovery efforts began as soon as the flames were contained. A massive outpouring of support, with donations coming in from across the state and nation, fueled these efforts. The U.S. Small Business Administration established disaster loan centers, and communities rallied together to help those who lost everything. Yet, the road to normalcy will be long for many.

Controversy swirled around the fire's origin. While investigations pointed to downed power lines as the cause, some reports suggested involvement from a Texas energy company. This uncertainty added another layer of hardship to the affected communities, raising questions about accountability and preventative measures.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire exposed a critical need for increased resources to protect the region. While firefighters bravely battled the blaze, the lack of dedicated firefighting aircraft hampered their efforts. Equipping local authorities with these crucial tools could significantly improve response times and potentially minimize future devastation.

The scars of the Smokehouse Creek Fire serve as a stark reminder of the Panhandle's vulnerability to wildfires. Rebuilding shattered lives and livelihoods necessitates ongoing support, along with a serious discussion about strengthening preventative measures and equipping firefighters with the necessary resources to combat future infernos. Only then can the Panhandle truly heal from this historic disaster.

Andy Holloway is the County Extension Agent for Hemphill County.
Sid Miller is the Texas Agriculture Commissioner
Lisa Johnson is the County Judge for Hemphill County
Monty Dozier is director of the Disaster Assessment and Recovery Program at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

*This program was recorded on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi