High Plains wildfires cause at least seven deaths and massive amounts of damage

Mar 8, 2017

Smoke filled the air south of Fritch, Texas Monday as firefighters battled a large wildfire north of Amarillo, Texas.
Credit Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

At least seven deaths, massive losses of land and livestock, are being blamed on wildfires that erupted across the High Plains Monday.

As CNN reports, wildfires across the region consumed more than 1 million acres by Tuesday night and killed people five in Texas, one person in Oklahoma and one person in Kansas.

The fires in the Texas Panhandle claimed at least five lives, including three ranchers who were trying to save their cattle in the Texas Panhandle.

Sloan Everett, 35, Cody Crockett, 20, and Crockett’s girlfriend, Sydney Wallace, 23, died while trying to steer cattle away from a fire near a ranch north of McLean.

Lipscomb County Sheriff Kenneth Eggleston said two others died in fire-related deaths – one in Lipscomb County and one in Ochiltree County.  

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, as of Wednesday afternoon: The Dumas Complex fire, located in Potter County near Amarillo, had destroyed an estimated 28,800 acres of land and was 100 percent contained; the Perryton fire, located in Ochiltree, Hemphill and Lipscomb Counties, is estimated to have destroyed 315,135 acres and was 60 percent contained; and the Lefors East fire in Gray County had destroyed an estimated 135,000 acres of land was 95 percent contained.

According to the Oklahoma Forestry Service, fires in Harper, Beaver and Woodward Counties prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency in 22 counties.

Oklahoma Forestry Service spokeswoman Suzanne McCombs said those fires remained uncontained as of Wednesday.

CNN reports that a 63-year-old Oklahoma woman died of a heart attack while fighting wildfires in alongside her husband in Harper County, Oklahoma.  

According to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, one man died from smoke inhalation in Clark County, Kansas, which according to Catherine Horner, spokeswoman with the state Division of Emergency Management, consumed more than 350,000 acres and destroyed 30 homes as of Wednesday. The same fire destroyed 151,000 acres in Comanche County.

The Kansas Adjutant General’s Department reported Wednesday that in total, over 659,000 acres had been consumed across the Sunflower state.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were active fires in Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Reno, and Rooks Counties.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) urges anyone wishing to contribute to ongoing disaster relief efforts to donate cash to disaster relief organizations rather than donating goods.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment Bureau of Waste Management is providing guidance to livestock owners for the disposal of dead animals. For information, go to the KDHE website (kdheks.gov/waste/p_techguides.html) or call Ken Powell (785) 296-1121.