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Smoke from the fire moved into the Artesia and Carlsbad areas today like a thick fog, limiting distance visibility on U.S. 285, as seen above just outside Artesia city limits. Residents with asthma and other breathing problems were being urged to remain inside if possible. The map below right shades areas being affected by the drifting smoke. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

 

The Latest on wildfires burning across the country’s midsection (all times Mountain):

6:30 p.m.

Officials say one of three wildfires in the Texas Panhandle is now 100 percent contained.

The Texas A&M Forest Service says a fire measuring about 46 square miles near Amarillo was fully contained by late Tuesday afternoon.

Another fire that’s burned more than 492 square miles in the northeast corner of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma border is 50 percent contained. It’s destroyed two homes.

A third wildfire south in Gray County and measuring nearly 145 square miles is 25 percent contained.

Phillip Truitt, a spokesman for the Texas A&M Forest Service, says his agency has confirmed three firefighters were injured battling the blazes. All have been released from hospitals.

Truitt says the death toll in Texas remains at four: three deaths in Gray County and one in Hemphill County.

1 p.m.

Officials say the largest of three wildfires in the Texas Panhandle is now 50 percent contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service said earlier Tuesday that the fire in the northeast corner of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma border was only about 5 percent contained. But it says firefighters have since broadened their containment, aided in part by weaker winds.

Fire officials say the wildfire is much larger than originally thought. They say it’s burned about 460 square miles, up from earlier estimates of 156 square miles.

It’s one of the three wildfires in the Panhandle, with one just south in Gray County and another to the west near Amarillo. Wildfires are also burning in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

11:50 a.m.

Authorities say one of the three wildfires in the Texas Panhandle is about three times larger than they had thought.

Phillip Truitt, a spokesman for the Texas A&M Forest Service, says the fire in the northeast corner of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma border has burned about 460 square miles of land, not the 156 square miles officials estimated earlier Tuesday.

He says authorities were finally able to fly over the area to get a more accurate sense of the damage.

The fire is only about 5 percent contained but the winds have died down since Monday.

Local officials estimate that a separate fire to the south has burned about 100,000 acres, or roughly 156 square miles. But Truitt says the state Forest Service hasn’t yet given its own assessment.

A third, smaller fire near Amarillo was about 75 percent contained.

Authorities say four people have died in the two larger wildfires.

10:40 a.m.

Authorities say wildfires in the Texas Panhandle have claimed another life, bringing the four-state death count from wildfires to five.

Hemphill County Judge George Briant said Tuesday that the fourth death in the Texas Panhandle was caused by a blaze near the Oklahoma border that has burned 156 square miles of land. That fire was only about 5 percent contained Tuesday morning.

Authorities said earlier Tuesday that three ranch hands were killed by another fire in the Panhandle. Gray County emergency management coordinator Sandi Martin identified the three as Emmert Sloan, Cody Crockett and Sydney Wallace. She says Crockett and Wallace were in their early 20s and Sloan’s age was not known.

The fifth death was that of an Oklahoma truck driver who was killed by smoke inhalation on a highway in southern Kansas.

The fires in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado have driven thousands of people from their homes and scorched hundreds of square miles of land.