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Catastrophic Wildfire: Operation Blessing Arrives in Texas Panhandle Bringing Aid and Prayer

Texas wildfire

A catastrophic wildfire burning through the Texas Panhandle has quickly become the largest wildfire in the state's history continuing to threaten homes, cattle, and livelihoods every second that it continues to burn.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which broke out earlier this week, has extended to nearly 1.1 million acres scorching rural ranchlands and destroying homes, firefighters said Thursday. 

"This is now both the largest and most destructive fire in Texas history," the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department wrote on Facebook. "It is also the second largest wildfire in U.S. history." 

The fire has merged with another blaze and is only three percent contained – signs that the blaze is far from over. 

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It's not clear what started the fire which has burned since Monday and has grown with extreme speed. 

The full extent of the damage remains unknown as well, but land about the size of Delaware is scorched as homes and herds have been destroyed. 

The owners of the Turkey Track Ranch, a historic Texas ranch, estimate that 80% of their pastures, plains, and creek bottom vegetation have been burned by fire, KHOU-TV reported. 

"The loss of livestock, crops, and wildlife, as well as ranch fencing and other infrastructure throughout our property as well as other ranches and homes across the region is, we believe, unparalleled in our history," the owners said of their 80,000 acres.

Meanwhile, at least two people have died from the fires.

Truck driver Cindy Owen died while evacuating on the road and 83-year-old Joyce Blankenship also lost her life, the family said.

"The house was gone," said her grandson Nathan Blankenship. "There was no way she could've gotten out."

It was a close call for Jerry Harrah of Fritch.

"Where the fire was, I figured I was alright," he told CBS News. "Until I turned around, and it was right across the street from me. And I got burned trying to get out of there."

Miraculous Snowfall an Answer to Prayer

A team from CBN's Operation Blessing is on site working to establish a base of operations and bring disaster relief by providing sandwich lunches to feed people while waiting for the mobile kitchen to arrive.

"Imagine a wall of fire coming at you," Pastor Brian of His Church told OB.

Pastor Brian and his wife, Jessi, told Operation Blessing they prayed for rain the night before and woke up to an unexpected blanket of snow in Amarillo and surrounding areas. 

"For an hour all we did was pray for rain. We quoted scriptures, sang, prayed, and prophesied rain on our land," Jessi, who is also a pastor, shared. "And this morning, we woke up to sleet and then it turned into this beautiful blanket of snow. And it was 80 degrees on Monday. We are so thrilled. It felt like Christmas morning."

"God did one better. We thought we needed rain, but God sent us a blanket of snow," she added.  

Operation Blessing is also praying for those who have been affected by the fires and looking for ways to minister to the communities.

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