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A massive Texas wildfire is finally dying down. Its impact could last years.

A massive Texas wildfire is finally dying down. Its impact could last years.

Texans are holding onto hope that a series of wildfires, including one now ranking among the largest in U.S. history, will soon be extinguished in the state’s panhandle region. However, even as the flames subside, leaders in the state’s agriculture sector predict that the recovery for farms and ranches will be a prolonged process, potentially stretching over several years.

The rapid spread of the fires wreaked havoc in the heart of Texas cattle country, scorching approximately 2,000 square miles of vital grasslands that sustain tens of thousands of cattle. The toll includes the loss of 3,600 animals, with additional euthanizations anticipated due to injuries sustained, such as burned hoofs and udders, according to Sid Miller, Texas’s commissioner of agriculture. Miller emphasizes that the regeneration of grasses and the return of cattle could take years. Furthermore, the extensive costs associated with rebuilding fencing, barns, and other ranch infrastructure, estimated to be substantial, won’t be covered by insurance.

This disaster follows closely on the heels of flooding from nearly a year’s worth of rain less than a year ago, which inundated other parts of the panhandle region. Subsequent drought conditions further exacerbated the situation by parching vegetation across the area. Experts warn that this cyclic pattern is heightening wildfire risks across the West and Southwest. However, some Texas farmers view it as an inherent part of life in the panhandle.

Jared Blankenship, a rancher and farmer representing the region for the Texas Farm Bureau Federation, reflects on his grandfather’s accounts of similar weather and fortune swings decades ago. In this arid part of the country, where dry conditions are common, fires have always been a concern, even though they typically don’t spread with such alarming speed.

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