Four Dead in Texas Panhandle Fires

Wildfires sparked by warm dry spring weather and fed by gusty winds are now covering more than 300,000 acres in the remove Texas Panhandle, according the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Four people have been killed.

Three people, two men and a woman, were killed in Gray County, northeast of Amarillo, when County Emergency Management Director Sandra Martin says they were engulfed by fast moving flames while trying to move cattle away from the fire.

"Wildfires go at a very rapid pace, and then they can change direction in a moment's notice," she said.  "Then you can just get caught up in it."

Philip Truitt, who is the incident manager for the Forest Service, says a fourth person has been killed in Hemphill County, near the Oklahoma County line.  He didn't immediately know the circumstances surrounding that death.

The Forest Service says there are two separate fires burning.

The 290,000 acre Perryton fire has destroyed two homes in the far northeastern part of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma state line.  It is 5% contained.

The other is the Dumas Complex fire, which is located near Amarillo has been 75% contained.

Truitt says the Gray County fire which killed the three ranch hands is a separate fire.

Truitt says things are looking up for firefighters today.

"The fires are looking a lot better than yesterday," he said.  "We have less winds and lower humidities."He says there are no active evacuations underway in the Panhandle.

Four firefighters have been hurt, including one who is a firefighter with the Pantex Nuclear Facility, but he says Pantex itself is not in danger.

"Right now there is no danger to it," Truitt said.  "The fire line near Pantex is out cold."

He says so far, no cause of the fires has been released.

IMAGE; TEXAS FOREST SERVICE

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