Grandmother dead as wildfires scorch Texas, leaving homes destroyed and a 'moonscape' in their wake

Strong winds, dry grass, and unseasonably warm temperatures have helped stoke one of the worst ever wildfires in Texas's history, as ITV News Reporter Aisha Zahid explains

A grandmother has died in wildfires which are ravaging Texas.

Firefighters are struggling to contain the fire which have destroyed homes, cut off power for thousands and forced authorities to issue evacuation orders.

The largest blaze, known as the Smokehouse Creek Fire, expanded to more than 1,300 square miles and jumped into parts of neighbouring Oklahoma.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said the flames were only about 3% contained, and emergency services believe it will get bigger before it is contained.

“There was one point where we couldn’t see anything,” said Greg Downey, 57, describing his escape as flames teared through his neighbourhood. “I didn’t think we’d get out of it.”

Firefighters drive through road engulfed by blaze in Texas (Credit: Greenville Fire Department)

Residents in and around Fritch and other rural towns fled for safety Tuesday afternoon as high winds whipped the flames into residential areas and through cattle ranches.

The woman who died was former substitute teacher Joyce Blankenship.

After fleeing his home as the flames closed in, her grandson, Lee Quesada, said he posted in a community forum asking if anyone could try and locate her.

Mr Quesada said police told his uncle on Wednesday they found his grandmother's remains in her burned home. He said: "It brings tears to my eyes knowing I'll never see her again."

Fast-moving wildfire burning through the Texas Panhandle grew into the second-largest blaze in state history, Credit: AP

Firefighters and rescuers are not able to determine whether more lives were lost, as well as the extent of the damage, as the fires are still raging out of control.

Parts of the US state have been left scorched, with the earth blackened and cattle lying dead in their fields.

Hemphill County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Kendall described the charred terrain as being “like a moonscape... It's just all gone”.

Unseasonably hot and dry weather, as well as strong winds have helped the Smokehouse Creek Fire to grow to more than five times its size since it started on Monday.

Charred vehicles sit at an auto body shop after the property was burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire. Credit: AP

It is now larger than the state of Rhode Island and has burned nearly 800 square miles of land, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, making it the second largest wildfire in Texas history.

The Pantex nuclear plant, which assembles and disassembles atomic weapons, was forced to pause operations and evacuate all non-essential staff on Tuesday.

However early on Wednesday, Pantex tweeted that the facility "is open for normal day shift operations" and that all personnel were to report for duty according to their assigned schedule.

In Borger, a community of about 13,000 north of Pantex, Hutchinson County emergency management services personnel planned a convoy to take evacuees from one shelter to another ahead of expected power outages and overnight temperatures well below freezing.

Borger resident Adrianna Hill managed to escape from the town: “It was like a ring of fire around Borger, there was no way out... all four main roads were closed. What saved our butts was that northern wind... it blew it the opposite direction.”

At least some residents in the small city of Fritch in Hutchinson County were also told to leave their homes Tuesday afternoon because of another fire that had jumped a highway.

"Everything south of Highway 146 in Fritch evacuate now," city officials said on Facebook.

There is hope that the weather may help firefighters bring the situation under control, with less wind and possibly rain forecast for Thursday.

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