Smokehouse Creek fire: Power company admits to potential responsibility

Houston, Texas - A power company admitted Thursday that its equipment may have sparked the largest wildfire in Texas' history.

Power company Xcel has admitted potential responsibility in the Texas wildfire that has killed at least two.
Power company Xcel has admitted potential responsibility in the Texas wildfire that has killed at least two.  © SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Xcel – the parent of Southwest Public Service Company, which provides electricity to part of the state – said it was working with officials investigating the cause of the blaze that charred more than a million acres.

"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.

Hundreds of homes are thought to have been destroyed in the fire, which is known to have killed at least two people and over 3,000 farm animals.

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Xcel, which is facing at least one lawsuit, denied its equipment was improperly maintained.

"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," the statement said.

The Washington Post reported the admission came after it saw evidence the grid in Texas was under stress in the hours before the blaze broke out in strong winds on February 26.

How did the Smokehouse Creek fire start?

The Smokehouse Creek blaze broke out on February 26.
The Smokehouse Creek blaze broke out on February 26.  © SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The paper said Whisker Labs, a firm that monitors electricity supply grids, recorded 50 faults in the system.

These are typically logged when a power line has been toppled or has touched trees – events that typically result in the kind of sparks that can start fires in dry countryside.

It is not uncommon for US power companies to be blamed for destructive wildfires.

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Hawaii's Maui County last year began legal action against the island's electricity provider over the deadly fires that leveled the historic town of Lahaina.

Videos taken before the blaze ripped through the town, killing 100 people, apparently showed downed cables setting light to vegetation.

In California, the almost 1-million-acre Dixie fire of 2021 began after power lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric touched a tree.

A year earlier, the company pleaded guilty to more than 80 counts of involuntary manslaughter over the horrific Camp fire.

US infrastructure is frequently old and increasingly not fit for the growing demands placed on it.

Cover photo: SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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