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Texas power company admits its equipment may have caused devastating wildfire

A Texas power company has admitted its equipment may have sparked one of the devastating wildfires that ravaged the state in recent days, killing at least three people and burning across nearly 1,700 square miles.

In a statement released on Thursday, Xcel Energy said it had been cooperating with the investigations into the wildfires, while also carrying out its own review.

“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 statement read.

“Xcel Energy disputes claims that it acted negligently in maintaining and operating its infrastructure; 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.”

Locals had accused the company of being responsible for the fire, claiming that a wooden utility pole near Stinnett was blown over by strong winds and then set fire to dry grass and brush.

Authorities have said that the blaze was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of cattle and forced evacuations.

Across Texas, multiple raging fires have killed at least two civilians and one volunteer fire chief.

Joyce Blankenship, 83, was found dead in her Stinnett home on Wednesday 28 February, while Cindy Owens, of Amarillo City, was found dead after she exited her vehicle for an unknown reason and “the fire simply overtook her” the following day.

Multiple homes and other structures were lost in the Smokehouse Creek fire, while hundreds of others were destroyed across the Texas Panhandle.

“Xcel Energy, through our Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) subsidiary, has operated in the Texas Panhandle for more than 100 years,” Bob Frenzel, Chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy said in a statement.

“The people in this region are our friends, neighbours and relatives. We are deeply saddened by the losses incurred in this community, and we are committed to supporting its renewal and recovery.”

Xcel did point out that another fire in Windy Deuce was not likely caused by any of its equipment.

The company said it will work with authorities to evaluate the risks of wildfires and engage in activities which mitigate those risks and keep the public safe.