Texas Fires Kill Thousands of Animals

Quenching rains last weekend slowed the progress of Texas panhandle fires that consumed more than 800,000 acres of land and killed an estimated 10,000 head of livestock in less than a week. At least 30 horses in the McLean area of Texas succumbe

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Quenching rains last weekend slowed the progress of Texas panhandle fires that consumed more than 800,000 acres of land and killed an estimated 10,000 head of livestock in less than a week. At least 30 horses in the McLean area of Texas succumbed to smoke or flames.


Brad Williams, DVM, director for the Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) Amarillo-based Area 1, has served as the TAHC spokesperson on the fires. The East Amarillo Complex of fires consisted of two blazes, the Borger and the Interstate 40, which were 100% contained over the weekend. The fires began the afternoon of Sunday, March 12. Between one and two inches of rain fell on the fire zone Friday (March 18) and there was snow on Saturday (March 19), which weakened the fires considerably.


Williams said the I-40 fire, which burned an estimated 350,000 acres, was the one that impacted ranch and saddle horses the most. “There are a lot of horses down through there, and I know a lot were going to their veterinarians for treatment,” he said. Both fires approached from the West; one moved north, and the other moved south. However, Williams said the winds changed direction so many times that it is difficult to describe the path of the flames.


Saving human lives is first priority, as Williams said it should be. He said the fires moved so quickly that many people didn’t have time to get animals moved. Some owners in the towns of Miami and McLean were able to evacuate their horses to the rodeo grounds in Pampa and Canadian, but for the majority of livestock, teams tried to cut fences and herd the animals away from the flames. Since the animals were accustomed to their boundaries, it was difficult to move them toward the new fence openings, and many would run back toward the blaze

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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