The fire began around 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday in Hutchinson County and was able to build strength due to dry conditions and high winds, Fritch Police Chief Monte Leggett said.
“With the wind blowing the way it is, and the hot spots, the wind keeps switching from one direction to another so it’s almost impossible [to fight],” Leggett said. “Plus, until daylight or they [have] got a lot better visibility, it’s gonna be tough.”
As of Monday morning, the fire was about 75 percent contained after burning through up to 1,500 acres. The fire caused no deaths, but some residents are mourning the loss of their homes.
“Words cannot express the sadness and fear you have for the people’s homes, belongings and lives,” Vicki Bybee, who had to be evacuated because of the fire, told the Amarillo Globe News.
Much of Texas has been suffering from severe drought over the past few years. In 2012, trees “died by the millions” in Texas due to the state’s record-breaking drought, and in 2013, a NOAA meteorologist said there was a possibility the drought could continue for another few years. Right now, about 83 percent of the state is experiencing some form of drought, forcing residents of one Texas town to turn to recycled wastewater for their drinking water.
Texas isn’t the only state experiencing wildfires, however. In New Mexico, a wildfire has grown to 2,700 acres and threatens an “unknown number of structures.” New Mexico is also under considerable drought, with 97 percent of the state under some form of drought conditions and the majority under “severe” to “exceptional” drought. And last week, a massive wildfire broke out in Oklahoma, leaving one person dead and forcing 1,000 to evacuate. The wildfire burned through about 3,500 acres near Guthrie, OK and destroyed about 30 structures.
As climate change brings drier and hotter conditions to much of the U.S., wildfires — including large, explosive ones — are becoming more common. Fires that are larger than 10,000 acres are seven times more common today than they were four decades ago, Thomas Tidwell, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said last year in a congressional testimony, and the fire season is on average two months longer than it used to be.