Wildfires burning across the southern Plains have taken the lives of at least seven people and caused heavy agricultural damage across the region.
There are currently 12 wildfires burning in various locations through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. High winds blowing through the area have resulted in tornadoes, and are fueling the fires and making them difficult to fight.
Five of the seven victims were from Texas. Three of them died in the Lefors East Fire in the Panhandle. Sydney Wallace (23), her boyfriend Cody Crockett (20), and their friend Sloan Everett (35) were working together with to save land and livestock on a ranch north of McLean, but perished when the fires overtook them.
The fourth victim from Texas is Cade Koch (25). The Amarillo Globe News reported that Koch was found five miles from his home in Lipscomb. Authorities believe he abandoned his vehicle after encountering the nearby Perryton wildfire, and was overcome by smoke.
CNN reports an additional victim died in Ochiltree County.
Outside of Texas, truck Driver Corey Holt (39) was killed at the Kansas-Oklahoma border when smoke from the Clark County Fire became too thick to see, causing his truck to jackknife. Holt likely died of smoke inhalation after the accident.
A woman in Oklahoma, whose identity has not yet been released, reportedly suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to put out the fire on her property near Buffalo, NBCDFW reported.
At least five firefighters have been injured while fighting the blazes near Amarillo, Texas.
In all, more than million acres of land have burned throughout the Plains. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes.
On Wednesday (March 8), Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 22 counties.
One of the Oklahoma fires was reportedly caused by lightning, and another was due to a controlled burn that got out of hand. The Northwest Oklahoma Complex Fire (comprised of Starbuck, Selman and the 283 fire) are all zero percent contained so far, according to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
In Texas, The Lefors East Fire burned over 135,000 acres of land. The Texas A&M Forest Service reported today that that fire is now 95% contained. The Perryton fire burned over 315,000 acres. At the last report, it was 60% contained. The Dumas Complex fire in Potter County is completely contained now, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. In Northern Amarillo, Myhighplains.com reports that four firefighters were injured, but none critically.
The Clark County fire in Southern Kansas was the most devastating in the state. That fire started in Oklahoma, and has burned 548 square miles so far.
The Haxtun, Colorado fire has burned over 30,000 acres and five homes as of Tuesday. Almost 200 cattle were killed in the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, says the Denver Post.
Firemen from surrounding areas have been sent in as relief for the local forces, and are using everything in their power to stop the fires. Aircraft are being used to drop water and fire retardants as well as trucks pumping water onto the fires using hoses. Firefighters are also using bulldozers to cut into the dirt and uproot vegetation as needed.
NASA tweeted a picture today that shows that the fires are visible from space.
— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) March 8, 2017