Wildfires spreading across the Texas panhandle forced a nuclear weapons facility to pause all operations and evacuate.

The Pantex plant, one of six production facilities in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Security Enterprise, evacuated out of “an abundance of caution.”

“Currently, evacuations are underway at the Pantex nuclear weapons facility in Carson County, Texas, due to rapidly spreading wildfires in the area. The facility, located 21 miles east of Amarillo, holds nearly 20,000 plutonium cores and is actively producing the B61-12 bomb and W88 Alt370 warhead,” Rawsalerts wrote.

“As the plant is responsible for assembling and disassembling America’s nuclear arsenal, the plant has halted all operations because the nearby fire is out of control. Focus has shifted entirely to evacuations, with a few non-essential personnel seeking shelter on-site.”

The facility said it would reopen for usual work on Wednesday.

From the Associated Press:

An unknown number of homes and other structures in Hutchinson County were damaged or destroyed, local emergency officials said. The main facility that disassembles America’s nuclear arsenal paused operations Tuesday night but said it would reopen for normal work on Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties as the largest blaze, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, burned nearly 470 square miles (1,200 square kilometers), according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. That is more than twice its size since the fire sparked Monday.

Authorities have not said what might have caused the blaze, which tore through sparsely populated counties surrounded by rolling plains.

The weather forecast provided some hope for firefighters — cooler temperatures, less wind and possibly rain on Thursday. But for now, the situation was dire in some areas.

“Pantex is the primary United States nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility that aims to maintain the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile,” Wikipedia states.

The plant completed its last new bomb in 1991 and has dismantled thousands since, the Associated Press noted.

The rapidly spreading wildfires have caused chaos throughout the Texas panhandle.

Per CNN:

An out-of-control wildfire is threatening Texas Panhandle towns and forcing residents to evacuate. Meanwhile, several other wildfires are burning nearby, fueled by high winds and dry air. And the flames jumped into bordering Oklahoma communities Tuesday night, prompting evacuation orders there, too.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has scorched more than 300,000 acres of land since igniting Monday afternoon, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Parts of Texas’ Hemphill and Roberts counties were under evacuation orders or shelter-in-place advisories Tuesday as the fire encroached on populated areas. That included the Hemphill County city of Canadian, whose residents about 100 miles northeast of Amarillo were advised to shelter where they were.

According to Amarillo Globe-News, the Smokehouse Creek fire has singlehandedly burned more than 200,000 acres.

Amarillo Globe-News reports:

The largest of the fires, Smokehouse Creek in Stinnett, has singlehandedly burned more than 200,000 acres, doubling from 100,000 Tuesday morning and is zero percent contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Grapevine Creek, just southeast of Pampa, has burned 30,000 acres and is 15% contained; Windy Deuce along Lake Meredith in Fritch has burned 8,000 acres and is 20% contained; Juliet Pass near Claude has burned 3,000 acres and is 90% contained.

Officials across the affected region are urging residents to relocate.

Moore and Potter counties ordered mandatory evacuations for all residents early afternoon as the fire continued to spread and wind speeds remained high.

Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office Brent Clapp wrote in a Facebook post that “it is strongly suggested to evacuate Canadian.” The evacuation point is the AgriLife Center in Wheeler, according to the post, after announcing just minutes prior that the evacuation route to Higgins was no longer available as Highway 60 between Glazier and Higgins was shut down.

Roberts County Judge Newton Locke issued a mandatory evacuation order for southeast Roberts County, including the town of Miami, on Tuesday afternoon.

The City of Borger’s Office of Emergency Management announced on Facebook that travel is discouraged on highway and rural roads as “numerous wildfires are actively threatening several areas within Hutchinson County.”

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