Utility company says its facilities ‘appear to have been involved’ in start of Smokehouse Creek fire in Texas

Utility company says its facilities ‘appear to have been involved’ in start of Smokehouse Creek fire in Texas - Business and Finance - News

Xcel Energy’s Facilities Suspected of Contributing to Texas Panhandle’s Largest Wildfire

The Texas Panhandle, which has been hit hard by a series of wildfires this past week, saw its largest blaze yet, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, consume over one million acres and leave numerous residents with destroyed homes and livestock. According to recent reports, Xcel Energy, the utility company responsible for providing power to most of the region, has acknowledged that its facilities may have played a role in the ignition of this devastating fire.

An Unofficial Cause: Xcel Energy’s Involvement

“Based on currently available information, Xcel Energy acknowledges that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire,” the company stated in a press release on Thursday, March 3rd.

The Search for the True Cause Continues

Although the official cause of the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has destroyed more than a million acres in both Texas and Oklahoma, has not been definitively determined, speculation regarding Xcel Energy’s involvement comes as a result of a lawsuit filed against the utility company. Melanie McQuiddy, a homeowner who lost her property in the fire, accused Xcel Energy and a subcontractor of negligence for failing to properly maintain a wooden utility pole that reportedly snapped off at its base on February 26, 2022, and started the blaze.

A Fallen Power Pole: The Alleged Cause of Devastation

“We used fire patterns to trace the start of the fire to a specific wooden utility pole,” Mikal Watts, McQuiddy’s attorney, told CNN. “The companies failed to properly inspect, maintain, and replace the pole, which splintered and snapped off at its base, causing the fire.”

The Legal Battle: Claims of Negligence and Disputes

“Xcel Energy disputes claims that it acted negligently in maintaining and operating its infrastructure,” the company stated in its press release. “However, we encourage people who had property destroyed by or livestock lost in the Smokehouse Creek fire to submit a claim to Xcel Energy through our claims process.”

A Devastating Toll: Homes and Livestock Lost

According to the press release, 47 occupied homes in Hemphill County were destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, along with another 17 in Roberts County. The number of occupied homes destroyed in Hutchinson County is still being determined, but the total count of homes and structures lost across all five fires in the Panhandle stands at around 500.

A Tragic Loss: Lives and Property

“The Smokehouse Creek fire has destroyed 1,059,570 acres and is 44% contained,” the Texas A&M Forest Service reported early Thursday morning. “The fire has killed at least two people and extended into Oklahoma, where it has destroyed more than 31,500 acres.”

A Catastrophic Impact on Agriculture

“Thousands of cattle were killed, and many more had to be put down due to sustaining burns to hooves, making them unlikely to survive,” the Texas A&M Forest Service added.

A Community in Need: Xcel Energy’s Commitment

“The people in this region are our friends, neighbors, and relatives,” Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel said. “We are deeply saddened by the losses incurred in this community and are committed to supporting its renewal and recovery.”

Conclusion: A Long Road to Recovery

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, along with the other fires that have ravaged the Texas Panhandle, has left a long and difficult road to recovery for both homeowners and ranchers. The investigation into the cause of the fire continues, and Xcel Energy remains committed to supporting those affected by this devastating event.

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