'Wildfire outbreak' possible in parts of fire-ravaged Texas, Oklahoma on Wednesday

A similar stretch of weather in February led to Texas’ largest wildfire on record. The Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned more than 1,058,000 acres across two states.

AMARILLO, Texas - A dangerously dry and windy weather pattern set up across parts of the southern Plains Wednesday, leading to an enhanced risk of dangerous wildfires.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has highlighted areas of Texas and Oklahoma for being at extreme risk – a level that is rarely issued by the agency – as forecasters warned of conditions suitable for a wildfire outbreak on Wednesday.

"This is the first time that this extreme or a Level 3 out of 3 risk has been issued so far this year," said FOX Weather Meteorologist Kendall Smith. "That’s why it’s important and why you have to make note of it. Fire Weather Warnings are also in effect. We have got a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles all the way down into West Texas and a good portion of even eastern New Mexico."


Wednesday’s critical threat area stretches from Kansas into northern Mexico, with communities such as Amarillo, Texas, and Woodward, Oklahoma, in the extreme threat zone.

According to the FOX Forecast Center, a storm system exiting the Rockies into the Plains will help enhance the wildfire risks with wind gusts reaching well over 30 mph and humidity values that could plunge below 10%. Already, winds reached 40 mph gusts in Amarillo around midday Wednesday with humidity down to 16%. 

The combination of conducive weather conditions, an intensifying drought and dead vegetation has led to the increased fire risk.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said it’s a unique set of circumstances that likely won’t change anytime soon.

Beyond Wednesday, forecast models show a flow out of the south and west will continue throughout the week, but higher humidity values could reduce how fast wildfires grow.

There remains no significant precipitation in the extended forecast, with many of the alerted areas seeing less than a quarter-inch of precipitation over the next seven days.

"The latest fuel guidance indicates fuels have dried even further since the wildfire outbreak at the end of February," NOAA forecasters stated in a recent update.


Firefighters still monitoring wildfires from late February

A similar stretch of weather in February led to Texas’ largest wildfire on record and at least a dozen other significant fires that burned from Kansas to the Lone Star State.

At last check, the Smokehouse Creek Fire was 89% contained and has burned more than 1,058,000 acres in two states. It is on track to become one of the top five largest wildfires in U.S. history, according to newly compiled NFPA wildfire data

Over the past 150 years, 19 wildfires in the U.S. have burned more than 500,000 acres. Nearly all of these fires have occurred in the last 20 years, with just three happening before 2000, the NFPA states.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is believed to have been started by improperly working utility equipment -- a similar cause that has been attributed to several deadly blazes in California and Hawaii.

In California, PG&E began the Public Safety Power Shutoff program in 2018 in order to cut down on the risks of electrical equipment starting new wildfires.

So far, neither the State of Texas nor Xcel Energy, the company tied to the Smokehouse Creek Fire, have said they plan to de-energize lines ahead of the latest fire threat.