Wildfires may have destroyed as many as 500 structures in the Texas Panhandle and that number could rise as damage assessments continue, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday.

The Smokehouse Creek fire, the largest blaze in state history hat began Monday, has burned about 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) in Texas and killed two people. It has left behind a charred landscape of scorched prairie, dead cattle and burned-out homes in the Texas Panhandle.

“When you look at the damages that have occurred here it’s just gone, completely gone nothing left but ashes on the ground,” Abbott said at a news conference in Borger, Texas.


The National Weather Service forecast for the weekend warns of strong winds, relatively low humidity and dry conditions that pose a “significant threat” to the spread of wildfires in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico.

In the hard-hit town of Stinnett, population roughly 1,600, families who evacuated from the Smokehouse Creek fire returned Thursday to devastating scenes: melted street signs and charred frames of cars and trucks. Homes reduced to piles of ash and rubble. An American flag propped up outside a destroyed house.

“We had to watch from a few miles away as our neighborhood burned,” Danny Phillips said, his voice trembling with emotion.

Phillips’ one-story home was still standing, but several of his neighbors weren’t so fortunate.

Stinnett’s destruction was a reminder that, even as snow fell Thursday and helped firefighters, crews are racing to stamp out the blaze ahead of higher temperatures and winds forecast in the coming days.

Already, the Smokehouse Creek fire has killed two people and left behind a desolate landscape of scorched prairie, dead cattle and burned-out homes in the rural Texas Panhandle. The largest of several major fires burning in the area, it has also crossed into Oklahoma.

The Smokehouse Creek blaze merged with another fire and is 5% contained, up from 3% on Thursday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said Friday.

At the X-Cross-X Ranch near Skellytown, ranch hands scooped up the bloated carcasses of dead cattle using bulldozers and deposited them on a pile beside a dirt road. They were then loaded into the back of an open trailer.