Local and State Officials on Recent Wildfires

• Abbott, Miller, Snapp discuss Panhandle wildfires


PAMPA (FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2024) – More than one million acres have burned across the Panhandle with hundreds of homes lost. According to Texas A&M Forest Service on Friday, March 1; the Smokehouse Creek Fire is 15 percent contained with an estimated 1,078,086 acres burned and the Grape Vine Creek fire is 60 percent contained with an estimated 30,000 acres burned.

On Tuesday evening, fires encroached Gray County territory.

“Thankfully, by the grace of God, we were spared. The fire approached from the north corner of the city, but we were able to hold that line out there,” said Dustin Miller, representative for the City of Pampa.

Miller explained that graders were utilized on the north and west sides of Pampa to prevent the fire from spreading into town. Dry vegetation was plowed in order create a barrier between the flames and the homes of Pampa citizens.

“We had a lot of unsung heroes that weren’t firefighters or volunteer firefighters who showed up and helped out,” he said.

Miller shared that in addition to firefighters and emergency management personnel, local farmers and ranchers also played a large role in preventing the fires from spreading into town.

For the first time known to city employees, the City of Pampa issued a voluntary evacuation notice.

“A mandatory evacuation would have been a lot more coordinated,” Miller explained.

“The suggested evacuation was done in the chance that, God forbid, we had to do a mandatory one. Then at the very least, we would already have a good portion of the population already out of harm’s way.”

With the potential for fires flaring up once again over the weekend, Miller stresses that everyone is on high-alert.

“We are at risk at fires again today, so we are watching. We are protected mostly from any fires that would come in from the north, but we are still open on the east and south sides. If any fires pop up (from those sides), we’ll start plowing lines again,” he explained.

Assistant Chief Brian Snapp, Hoover VFD

Assistant Chief Brian Snapp of the Hoover Volunteer Fire Department shared the ins and outs of the week to The Pampa News.

“Monday, around noon, we got sent to Davis Road South. That fire blew by us and we ended up fighting it off of Lefors. We were over there all day Monday- It was probably three or four o’clock in the morning when we went home,” Snapp began.

“When we got back to our station, the fire to the North (Smokehouse Creek) had burned into Roberts County.”

After dealing with the immediate threat in Roberts County, firefighters were able to get only a few hours of sleep before being sent back to Lefors.

“Some of the guys didn’t even leave the fire station, some of them ran home and took a shower. Then we got right back to it,” he said.

“We were sent back to Lefors to help on another breakout, and while we were down there, that’s when the fire flared up by Reynolds Ranch Road and we had to leave Lefors to go there. That’s where Tuesday started.”

From Lefors, firefighters were sent to Chisum Ranch, but those efforts had to soon be abandoned as well.

“Regrettably, and it was a very hard decision to make, but we had to abandon our efforts up there to prepare for the wind shift (that came two hours early) to keep it out of the city of Pampa.”

“We got with EMC, all the city leaders, the police chief, commissioners and city planners and we came up with the plan to start grading at County Road D. We (also) made the decision to start widening County Road D and then started grading from County Road D all the way to the airport runway. Then we started grading a line from the the south end of the airport runway all the way to County Roads 5 and D. We did a back burn off of the runway, and we used the Platt field to the north and our back burn as a buffer to pitch that fire into a more manageable space,” Snapp explained.

So then we put Captain Dalrymple with Hoover Fire in charge of County Road D and we sent him resources as they came available. They were able to fight it off of County Road D to keep it from burning the west side of town. If we didn’t stop it at County Road D, it would have jumped 152 and would have burned all the way from Cabot to Highway 60 probably.”

“The coordination was was unbelievable. In the past, we’ve had to make some really fast-paced decisions. This time, the fire chiefs and the city and county leaders were on point. They made the call to evacuate, which I believe is was 100 percent correct, because if it had gotten into the west side of town, I don’t think we would have ever stopped it because of the fuel load that’s out there. With the winds we had, this fire was kind of a bully.”

Snapp says that should fires flare up again, that he is confident that Pampa would be protected from the north and west sides. In the meantime, the focus is to fix broken equipment before any potential threats over the weekend.

“The community, man, they’ve really stepped up. We’ve got so much food and stuff at the fire station that I might have to end up donating some of that to the Salvation Army because we’ve got so much,” he said.

“But, what would help us the best is if somebody wants to give us gift cards to a part stores or donate to our carquest account here in town. People can just put money into that account to where we can just go get parts.”

Governor Greg Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott stopped by the Aluminum Dome in Borger today and held a press conference to discuss assessed damages and his plan to divert resources to the Panhandle for recovery efforts.

“To start out, I would like to say that what we have observed in this entire Panhandle region is the aggregate of persistence, perserverance, prayer, resilience and an extraordinary response to those in danger. When you look at the damages that have occurred here, It’s just gone- completely gone. There’s nothing left, just ashes on the ground,” he began.

“Those who are affected by this have gone through utter devastation. They are going through challenges that others cannot comprehend and they need our ongoing support, our ongoing assistance and our ongoing prayers as they and we all work together to help this entire Panhandle region rebuild and return to normalcy.”

Governor Abbott shared plans of filing a federal declaration of disaster after a more comprehensive assessment of damages so that federal funding can be used to rebuild. He also plans to increase aerial support in the area.