SBTC DR teams respond to historic Panhandle wildfires

The wildfire in the Texas Panhandle has now been declared the largest in the state's history. ROSS STONE/UNSPLASH

PAMPA—Late February wildfires ravaging the Texas Panhandle continued to burn from northernmost Hutchinson County across the region, prompting Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration for 60 counties on Tuesday (Feb. 27) as the fires doubled in a single day.

Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief crews immediately responded to the emergency and continue to do so.

SBTC DR’s quick response feeding unit (QRU) headquartered in Pampa with a crew from the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association led by James Greer sprang into action Tuesday, setting up operations at the association office in Pampa to cook for first responders. After preparing lunches and dinners, most volunteers left for the evening to take care of their own places threatened during the emergency, Greer said.

Volunteers returned Wednesday as the Pampa QRU spent that day preparing meals, its operations moved to Canadian, Texas.

“They’ve got hot chili dogs going out for lunch right now,” Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, said at noon Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, Stice issued a call-up for SBTC DR recovery units to be deployed to Canadian. The Pampa QRU is expected to continue its service and an additional QRU will be activated, Stice said. Plans are in the works for an incident management team to deploy as well, with a command post to be established either in Canadian or Pampa. Chaplains and shower/laundry crews and units are also being activated.

“Our QRU and shower/laundry volunteers will support the expected 150 first responders who will be housed at First Baptist Pampa,” Stice said.

“At the moment, our energies will be directed toward Pampa and Canadian,” Stice noted, adding that as of Wednesday, as many as 100 homes have been reported burned in the Fritch area also.

Currently six wildfires are burning: the Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County, the 687 Reamer fire nearby, the Grape Vine Creek fire in Gray County, the Magenta fire in Oldham County, and the Windy Deuce fire in southern Moore County, just north of Potter County, where the Pantex plant, the nation’s main facility for assembling and disassembling nuclear weapons, was forced to cease operations temporarily Tuesday night.

Active Panhandle blazes currently cover a combined area of some 374,000 acres, according to the latest figures by the Texas A&M Forest Service and reported in the Wall Street Journal.

This article also contains reporting from Yahoo.com and the Wall Street Journal.

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