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Texas Fire Chief Dies Battling House Fire After Days of Fighting Panhandle Wildfires: 'It Did Have a Role'

Zeb Smith, 40, had battled the Smokehouse Creek Fire for over a week before his death, officials said

<p>Zeb Smith/Facebook</p> Zeb Smith.

Zeb Smith/Facebook

Zeb Smith.
  • Zeb Smith, 40, a fire department chief in Texas, died in a structure fire on Tuesday that was unrelated to wildfires in the area, officials said

  • Smith had been battling the Smokehouse Creek Fire for over a week before his death

  • "In this time of profound loss, our thoughts and condolences go out to Chief Smith's family, friends, and the entire Fritch community," authorities said

A fire department chief, whose small town has been devastated by the Texas wildfires, has died in a house fire.

Zeb Smith, 40, chief of the Fritch Fire Department, was the first on the scene of a structure fire at a home unrelated to the wildfires on Tuesday morning and later died in the hospital, the City of Borger/Hutchinson County Office of Emergency Management said in a Facebook post.

“During the response, Chief Smith faced unforeseen challenges and, despite emergency medical assistance and quick transportation to Golden Plains Community Hospital, tragically succumbed to his injuries,” officials added in the post.

According to CBS News, Smith's death came a week after the Smokehouse Creek Fire broke out in Hutchinson County, which includes Fritch.

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"This structure fire was not directly related to the ongoing wildfires. It did not start as a cause of those wildfires," Brandon Strope, public information officer, said at a press conference, per CBS News.

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Strope also emphasized Smith's efforts in battling the Smokehouse Creek Fire.

"I would be remiss if I did not say that Chief Smith, along with every other volunteer firefighter in this county and in his department, has responded for the last nine days actively fighting these fires," he added. 'So I think we all can say with pretty good certainty that it did have a role in today's unfortunate incident."

Related: 83-Year-Old Grandmother Dies as Largest Wildfire in Texas History Scorches More Than 1M Acres

The Texas A&M Forest Service said in an update on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Wednesday that the fire was about 44% contained and had burned an estimated 1,059,570 acres.

Smaller wildfires in the area, including the Magenta Fire and the Roughneck Fire, have been 85% and 100% contained as of Tuesday, per the agency.

As first responders continue to fight the wildfires, those who knew Smith are mourning his death.

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“Chief Zeb Smith served the Fritch and Hutchinson County community with selflessness and dedication,” the city of Borger/Hutchinson County OEM wrote on Facebook. “His exemplary leadership was evident in his tireless efforts over the past week, where he worked diligently to protect and safeguard his community and fellow citizens.”

The department continued, "In this time of profound loss, our thoughts and condolences go out to Chief Smith's family, friends, and the entire Fritch community. We honor Chief Zeb Smith's legacy of service and express our deepest gratitude for his contributions to public safety."

A memorial service to celebrate Smith's life is set to be announced at a later date.

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