Fire chief in Texas city hit hard by wildfires dies while fighting a structure blaze

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FRITCH, Texas (AP) — A Texas fire chief whose small town was among the hardest hit last week by historic blazes sweeping across the Panhandle died Tuesday while fighting a structure fire, authorities said.

Fritch Fire Chief Zeb Smith was the first at the scene of the fire and died from his injuries after being transported to a local hospital, the Hutchinson County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.

It was unclear how the fire began or whether it was related to wildfires that firefighters are still trying to extinguish across the Panhandle, which includes the largest wildfire in Texas history.

The announcement came hours before Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was expected to meet with firefighters in Canadian, another town that’s experienced heavy destruction.

An official has said that Fitch’s northern edge was hit by a devastating wildfire in 2014, while last week’s blaze burned mostly to the south of the town, sparing the residents who live in the heart of the community.

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