Wildfires burn in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska Feb. 26-27

Texas A&M Forrest Service map - Smokehouse Creek wildfire perimeter

High winds, record-breaking temperatures and ample fuel loads pushed wildfire conditions in the Texas panhandle, western Kansas, northwest Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, Feb. 26 and 27.

According to inciweb.nwcg.gov, Feb. 28, the Smokehouse Creek Fire started Feb. 26 in the Texas Panhandle in Hutchinson County near the town of Stinnett, and over the next two days it’s traveled across Roberts and Hemphill counties, burning more than 500,000 acres in its path. It remains uncontained and is now the second largest wildfire in Texas history according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Several other fires are being fought in the panhandle and include the Windy Deuce fire near Lake Meredith. Nearly 40,000 acres have been consumed and it’s about 20% contained. The Grape Vine Creek Fire south of Pampa, Texas has burned 30,000 acres and as of Feb. 28 was about 60% contained. Many towns and homes have been evacuated as a result of the fires.

Several wildfires made their way into Oklahoma, the Catesby Fire in Ellis County is estimated at 30,000 acres with 0% containment. The Slapout fire in Beaver County has reached 76,800 acres estimated to have been burned with 0% containment as of early Feb. 28.

The Catesby Fire Department in Gage, Oklahoma, reported on its Facebook page, early Feb. 28, it had responded to a fire at Highway 15 and CR 171 at 1:15 p.m., Feb. 27. The fire was moving at a rapid pace and heading east toward U.S. Highway 283, crews began evacuating any home east of Highways 283 and 15 to Highway 46. Around 3 p.m., winds shifted from the west to north, and pushed the fires towards the cities of Shattuck and Gage, Oklahoma. The department lost a brush truck during its efforts and as temperatures dropped, other trucks began to freeze. Crews returned to the station at midnight.

In Kansas, six homes were burned near Liberal, in Seward County, on Feb. 26. Spotty fires across southwest and south-central Kansas were reported Feb. 27. According to the Ford County, Kansas Fire and EMS social media, crews went to Harper County, Oklahoma to help with a large grass fire. Before noon, Feb. 27, they were dispatched to a grass fire northeast of Bucklin, Kansas, and another near Wilroads Garden east of Fort Dodge, Kansas. No homes were destroyed in these fires, but some outbuildings, vehicles and livestock were lost.

According to the Nebraska Forest Service, as of Feb. 27, the Betty’s Way fire in Lincoln and Custer counties had reached 71,022 acres, with containment at 72%. One primary residence was destroyed, one primary residence was damaged, and numerous outbuildings have been destroyed. The fire was determined to be human-caused, resulting from mowing operations.

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Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].