Xcel Energy Admits Role in Starting Record Breaking Catastrophe

(UnitedVoice.com) – Fires have ravaged the Texas panhandle for weeks, near Oklahoma. More than 1 million acres have burned since the blazes began. One of the fires is now the largest in Texas history. An energy company is now admitting to playing a role in the catastrophe.

What Happened?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Smokehouse Creek Fire began on February 26. The blaze was one of five that ignited in the panhandle that week, but it was the largest. The dry, windy conditions allowed the fire to quickly spread. As of March 7, more than 1,059,000 acres had burned. That’s larger than the state of Rhode Island.

The fire has now spread into Oklahoma. In addition to the Smokehouse blaze, three other fires — the Windy Deuce Fire, the Magenta Fire, and the Grape Vine Creek Fire — are still burning. At least two people and thousands of cattle have died in the fires.

Energy Company Admits Fault

On March 7, Xcel Energy issued a statement and took responsibility for the Smokehouse fire. The Texas Tribune reported the company stated, “Based on currently available information, Xcel Energy acknowledges that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition” of the fire.

The company’s statement went on to say that it was cooperating with officials while also conducting an independent review. Although it believes that its facilities might have started the fire, the statement rejected allegations that the company was negligent in any way. They called on people who have been impacted by the fire to submit claims for their lost property or livestock.

According to the report, attorneys asked the company to preserve a fallen utility pole that was reportedly near where the fire started. Lawsuits are already being filed against the company. One of those suits was filed by homeowner Melanie McQuiddy on March 1. She claimed that the splintered pole lit on fire when it fell. She filed suit in Hemphill County.

Volunteer Firefighters Were First to Respond

Rural Texas is a vast place where homes are often miles apart from one another. Many towns have volunteer fire departments that serve their areas. That’s the case in Fritch, where the Smokehouse fire started.

Gena Wells, who works for the Stinnett Volunteer Fire Department, told the Texas Tribune that she received a call about a fire nearby. She was one of the first people to respond to the blaze when it just started. She said she was immediately scared, something she hadn’t felt before. The firefighters tried to put the flames out but she said, “We couldn’t put enough water on it to put it out. We tried to cut it off at the highway, and it just jumped. It was so fast.”

The NOAA released a video showing how quickly the first spread, and Wells was not exaggerating.

As of March 8, the Smokehouse Creek Fire was 87% contained.

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