AUSTIN, Texas — Four people including three ranch hands trying to protect livestock have died in wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, where blazes have scorched about 320,000 acres (130,000 hectares), officials said on Tuesday.
Fires driven by high winds and dry conditions have also hit Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas, prompting evacuations and destroying structures.
A woman and two men died on Monday in a fire in Gray County, Texas. One was overcome by smoke and died in an area hospital and the other two died from burns, said County Judge Richard Peet.
“They were trying to move cattle away from the oncoming fire,” he said in a telephone interview.
A fourth person was killed in nearby Hemphill County but the circumstances were not immediately available, said Phillip Truitt, incident commander with the Texas A&M Forest Service, which monitors wildfires.
He said one of the blazes had neared the Pantex Plant nuclear weapons facility but posed no threat.
“The fire line next to Pantex is out cold, and we don’t expect the fire to pose any threat to it,” he said.
The largest fire currently blazing in Texas is the so-called Perryton blaze that spread rapidly on Tuesday to cover nearly 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) in the Texas Panhandle and is 50 percent contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. That fire has destroyed two houses.
In neighboring Oklahoma, wildfires in the northwest part of the state led to evacuations of multiple towns, according to Oklahoma Forestry Services, which said more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) have burned.
More than 10,000 residents in central Kansas were asked to evacuate their homes due to a wildfire in Reno County, where about 230 responders were on the scene, the county’s emergency management agency said.
Firefighters battling a 30,000-acre (12,000-hectare) grassland fire that ignited in rural northeast Colorado on Monday held containment lines around 50 percent of the blaze overnight, the Logan County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.
Four homes have been destroyed by the blaze that is burning about 110 miles northeast of Denver and homes, outbuildings and other structures have been damaged, emergency managers said.
Crews were bracing for another day of gale-force winds on Tuesday that could trigger flare-ups, the county said. The cause of the fire was undetermined and no injuries have been reported.