BREAKING NEWS

Xcel Energy says its facilities appeared to have role in igniting largest wildfire in Texas history

Mar 7, 2024, 8:36 AM | Updated: 8:41 am

A helicopter carries a bucket as it flies over homes burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, Wednesday...

A helicopter carries a bucket as it flies over homes burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Canadian, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

CANADIAN, Texas (AP) — The utility provider Xcel Energy said Thursday that its facilities appeared have played a role in igniting a massive wildfire in the Texas Panhandle that grew to the largest blaze in state history.

Texas officials have said they are still investigating the cause of the fire that has burned nearly 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) and destroyed hundreds of structures. The Minnesota-based company said in a statement that it disputes claims that “it acted negligently” in maintaining and operating infrastructure.

“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 said in a statement.

Electric utilities have taken responsibility for wildfires around the U.S., including fallen power lines that started a blaze in Maui last year. Transmission lines also sparked a massive California wildfire in 2019.

The Texas fire was among a cluster of fires that ignited in the rural Panhandle last week and prompted evacuation orders in a handful of small communities.

Officials save said that as many as 500 structures may have been destroyed in the fires that include the Smokehouse Creek fire, which is the largest one in Texas history. That wildfire, which also spilled into neighboring Oklahoma, was about 44% contained as of Wednesday.

A lawsuit filed Friday in Hemphill County had alleged that a downed power line near the town of Stinnett on Feb. 26 sparked the blaze. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Stinnett homeowner Melanie McQuiddy against Xcel Energy Services Inc. and two other utilities, alleged the blaze started “when a wooden pole defendants failed to properly inspect, maintain and replace, splintered and snapped off at its base.”

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Xcel Energy says its facilities appeared to have role in igniting largest wildfire in Texas history