83-Year-Old Grandmother Dies as Largest Wildfire in Texas History Scorches More Than 1M Acres

The Smokehouse Creek Fire — one of several fires burning in the Texas Panhandle — began burning on Monday afternoon and is currently only 3% contained

<p>Greenville Firefighter Association/ Handout /Anadolu via Getty Images</p>

Greenville Firefighter Association/ Handout /Anadolu via Getty Images

  • Numerous fires are raging in the Texas Panhandle, including the Smokehouse Creek Fire that started Monday

  • Joyce Blankenship, 83, died when the Smokehouse Creek Fire enveloped her neighborhood in Stinnett

  • The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has grown to more than 1.1 million acres, is only 3% contained as of Thursday morning

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which is now the largest wildfire in Texas history, has claimed the life of a 83-year-old grandmother.

Joyce Blankenship died when the Smokehouse Creek Fire "enveloped" her neighborhood in the small town of Stinnett, about 70 miles northeast of Amarillo, ABC affiliate KVII-TV and CBS News Texas reported.

The grandmother and former substitute teacher lived in an area where the fire started on Monday afternoon, per KVII. She is the first and only confirmed fatality so far.

Fueled by strong winds, dry conditions and record-setting high temperatures, the Smokehouse Creek Fire has become the largest in the state, burning nearly 1.1 million acres in three days, CNN and CBS News reported.

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According to the outlets, the current wildfire has eclipsed 2006's East Amarillo Complex Fire, which burned 907,245 acres.

In an update provided at 9 a.m. local time Thursday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County is only 3% contained.

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Numerous other fires are also raging in the Panhandle, the Amarillo Globe-News reported. The other fires include the Windy Deuce Fire, which has consumed 142,000 acres and is 30% contained; the Grapevine Creek Fire, which is 30,000 acres and 60% contained; and the Magenta Fire, which is only 2,500 acres and currently 65% contained.

According to reports, authorities have not given a cause for what may have started the wildfires.

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On Wednesday, three Single Engine Airtankers (SEAT) began fighting the flames from the air, while two more SEATs and a helicopter are set to arrive in Moore County Airport in Dumas on Friday, KVII reported.

Hemphill County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Kendall described the charred area as a “like a moonscape,” with “hundreds of cattle just dead, laying in the fields,” according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, Tresea Rankin, a resident of the town of Canadian, where the fires have raged, reflected on what she had lost. “Thirty-eight years of memories, that’s what you were thinking,” Rankin told the outlet. “Two of my kids were married there ... But you know, it’s OK, the memories won’t go away.”

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