Mar 18, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Texas declares state of emergency as wildfire forces evacuations

A firefighter utilizes a drip torch during a tactical firing operation on March 15, 2022 in Runnels County.

A firefighter uses a drip torch during a tactical firing operation on March 15 in Runnels County, Texas. Photo: Texas A&M Forest Service

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency order in 11 counties Friday night as a rapidly growing wildfire has consumed more than 50,000 acres and forced evacuations statewide.

Why it matters: Approximately 500 people have been evacuated and 50 homes were destroyed in central Texas after a massive wildfire scorched upward of tens of thousands of acres over the past two days, the New York Times reported.

  • Firefighters responded to at least 10 wildfires that scorched 52,708 acres on March 17, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
  • At least one person has died. Texas officials identified the victim as Deputy Barbara Fenley, "who lost her life while trying to save others from the fires."

What they're saying: "I commend the hard work and selfless acts of thousands of first responders and firefighters who are risking their own lives to protect our communities," the Republican governor said.

  • "I also ask Texans to join me in praying for those who have been affected by these wildfires, including Eastland County Deputy Barbara Fenley who was tragically killed while trying to save lives. We will never forget her sacrifice," Abbott added.

Details: The Eastland Complex fires include a number of blazes, the biggest being the Kidd Fire, officials said, which has alone engulfed roughly 30,000 acres.

  • “Ever-shifting winds” and extremely dry conditions are largely responsible for triggering the massive wildfire, according to the governor's release.
  • “Wildfires that ignite under these forecast conditions are highly resistant to firefighters’ suppression efforts and pose a threat to public safety," Fire Chief Wes Moorehead of Texas A&M Forest Service also said this week.
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