Home News Power lines to blame for largest fire in Texas history: officials

Power lines to blame for largest fire in Texas history: officials


The largest fire in Texas history was sparked by power lines in the state’s panhandle, officials said Thursday.

Utility provider Xcel Energy admitted that its equipment was involved in starting the Smokehouse Creek fire, which burned nearly 1,700 square miles in the rural region. The fire continued to rage but was 74% contained as of Thursday afternoon.

This image taken from Greenville Fire-Rescue's facebook page on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 shows fires in the Texas Panhandle. A fast-moving wildfire burning through the Texas Panhandle grew into the second-largest blaze in state history, forcing evacuations and triggering power outages as firefighters struggled to contain the widening flames. (Greenville Fire-Rescue via AP)
This image taken from Greenville Fire-Rescue’s Facebook page on Feb. 28 shows fires in the Texas Panhandle. (Greenville Fire-Rescue via AP)

However, Minnesota-based Xcel disputed any claims that it was negligent in maintaining its equipment. Last week, a resident of Stinnett, Texas in the panhandle sued Xcel and two other utilities.

The lawsuit, filed by Melanie McQuiddy, claims that an Xcel power pole “splintered and snapped off at its base” because the company “failed to properly inspect, maintain and replace” the pole.

Investigators with the Texas A&M Forest Service did not reach such concrete conclusions in their examination, only saying the fire was caused by power lines.

Downed power lines have sparked multiple devastating fires across the U.S. in recent years. The blaze that killed 100 people and created apocalyptic scenes in Maui last year was caused by downed power lines, as was the 2019 Kincaid Fire in California that forced 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

While the Smokehouse Creek fire quickly became the largest in Texas history, it largely burned swaths of empty land. However, small communities in the panhandle were still forced to flee, and the fire destroyed around 500 structures.

The fire was accompanied by the nearby Windy Deuce fire, which was also caused by power lines, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Xcel said it had nothing to do with that fire.

With News Wire Services

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