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Texas Wildfires Ignite State of Emergency: Nuclear Plant Evacuated amid 'Devastating' Blaze

The Texas Panhandle is currently grappling with disastrous wildfires that have led to a disaster declaration for numerous counties and evacuation orders in some areas. Governor Greg Abbott, acknowledging the extensive wildfire activity across the state, declared a disaster in 60 counties on Tuesday. Among these fires, the Smokehouse Creek Fire has become the second-largest wildfire in Texas history.

In response to the crisis, Gov. Abbott emphasized that the disaster declaration ensures a swift deployment of fire response resources to the affected areas in the Texas Panhandle. The Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo has temporarily halted operations and evacuated nonessential personnel as a precaution against the advancing wildfires, as reported in an internal situation report from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

The Texas A&M Forest Service is closely monitoring several fires, including the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, which is approximately 13 miles from the Pantex facility. Despite the challenges, the report confirms the safety of special materials within the facility.

Wildfires, fueled by warm, dry, and windy conditions, continue to rage across the Texas Panhandle, impacting mainly the central and eastern regions. The National Weather Service reports that fires persist in these areas. Particularly severe is the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County, covering an estimated 850,000 acres and only 3% contained as of Wednesday afternoon. The fire has exhibited extreme behavior, with wind gusts reaching 60 mph and flames soaring up to 20 feet.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has also crossed into northwestern Oklahoma, affecting highways and prompting the evacuation of a hospital and nursing home in Shattuck. Another significant blaze, the Windy Deuce Fire, has burned around 90,000 acres and is 25% contained, with active fire behavior persisting due to high winds.

Fritch, located in Hutchinson and Moore counties, has suffered damage to over 40 houses since Monday, with parts of the city under evacuation. Mandatory evacuations were issued for several towns in the Amarillo region, with some being lifted later. School closures on Wednesday were attributed to the ongoing wildfires.

Governor Abbott cautioned that the wildfires may intensify in the coming days amid high temperatures and windy conditions. He urged Texans to exercise caution to prevent sparks and ensure the safety of their loved ones.

President Joe Biden is closely monitoring the situation, with White House officials in constant communication with state, local, and federal authorities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Forest Service, and National Interagency Fire Center are actively providing assistance to the state.

In a Wednesday briefing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the importance of heeding local officials' warnings, especially for those under evacuation orders, and urged everyone in the affected area to remain vigilant. ABC News' Josh Margolin and Amanda Maile contributed to this comprehensive report.