Market News & Headlines >> Massive Wildfire Spreads in Texas Panhandle

With the second largest wildfire in state history burning out of control in the Texas Panhandle, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott on Wednesday afternoon issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties due to “widespread wildfire activity throughout the state.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the so-called Smokehouse Creek Fire had scorched at least 850,000 acres of land since starting on Monday in Hutchison County and was only 3% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

“High winds, high temperatures, and low humidities all day have caused extreme fire behavior to occur and a rapid rate of spread,” the Forest Service said on its website, noting a shift in wind direction had contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. “Winds were predominantly out of the east until a frontal passage came through causing winds to shift to out of the north. Winds are expected to continue into the night and tomorrow. Fire behavior has shown long-range spotting and high rates of spread.”

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Hemphill County AgriLife Extension agent Andy Holloway, Canadian, Texas told Southwest FarmPress. “We’ve lost a lot of acres, a lot of cattle, and a lot of homes. So far, we have not heard of any human deaths. But property loss, including cattle, is massive.”

Although it is tragic for the producers involved, so far, the damage is probably not a big event for the cattle market as a whole. The counties that have been primarily hit by the Smokehouse Creek fire so far – Hutchison, Roberts and Hemphill – are not huge cattle producers. The most recent USDA county level data showed a total inventory of 109,500 head of cattle in those three counties as of Jan. 1, 2022. Those three counties are also not significant winter wheat producers.

Another wildfire in the northern Panhandle region, the Windy Deuce fire, had burned 90,000 acres in Moore County, and was 25% contained, according to the Forest Service.  Moore County had a Jan. 1, 2023 inventory of 130,000 head of cattle and calves, including 47,500 milk cows, according to USDA.

In total, more than one million acres have reportedly burned in the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma.