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Live call-in show tonight: After the Smokehouse Creek Fire

Firefighters battle flames from the reignited Smokehouse Creek fire outside of Miami.
Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Sam Craft
Firefighters battle flames from the reignited Smokehouse Creek fire outside of Miami.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire killed at least two people, destroyed more than 500 structures, and devastated grasslands. Thursday at 7 p.m., KETR will broadcast a live special report and call-in program on the future implications of the incident. The show is produced by The Texas Newsroom, the statewide collaborative of public media organizations in Texas.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which ravaged the Texas Panhandle in February and March, left a trail of devastation. The record-breaking blaze, scorching over one million acres, claimed the lives of two people and destroyed hundreds of homes and structures. Ranchers mourned the loss of countless livestock, and the agricultural heartland was left scarred.

Recovery efforts began as soon as the flames were contained. A massive outpouring of support, with donations coming in from across the state and nation, fueled these efforts. The U.S. Small Business Administration established disaster loan centers, and communities rallied together to help those who lost everything. Yet, the road to normalcy will be long for many.

Controversy swirled around the fire's origin. While investigations pointed to downed power lines as the cause, some reports suggested involvement from a Texas energy company. This uncertainty added another layer of hardship to the affected communities, raising questions about accountability and preventative measures.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire exposed a critical need for increased resources to protect the region. While firefighters bravely battled the blaze, the lack of dedicated firefighting aircraft hampered their efforts. Equipping local authorities with these crucial tools could significantly improve response times and potentially minimize future devastation.

The scars of the Smokehouse Creek Fire serve as a stark reminder of the Panhandle's vulnerability to wildfires. Rebuilding shattered lives and livelihoods necessitates ongoing support, along with a serious discussion about strengthening preventative measures and equipping firefighters with the necessary resources to combat future infernos. Only then can the Panhandle truly heal from this historic disaster.

The Texas Newsroom, a collaboration of public broadcasters in the Lone Star State, is hosting a special live call-in program Thursday at 7pm CST that will dive into the latest on the recovery and the lessons learned.

Call in at 833-877-8255 or 833-TPR-TALK.

*This program will be recorded on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

David Martin Davies is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering Texas, the border and Mexico.