Texas A&M Forest Service

Xcel Says Its Equipment Likely Helped Start Texas Fire

March 8, 2024
The company is working with investigators and running its own review of the Smokehouse Creek blaze’s origins.

Xcel Energy Inc. officials on March 7 said it appears that some of its assets “appear to have been involved” in the start of the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas, which grew to become the largest in the Lone Star State’s history and killed two people.

Xcel’s statement came a week after the company said that it had been asked by a law firm to preserve a fallen pole belonging to its Southwestern Public Service Co. subsidiary. Since then, a resident of the area near the town of Canadian has sued SPS alleging that the utility didn’t properly maintain or replace the pole that snapped at its base. The lawsuit also names Osmose Utilities Services, an inspection and maintenance company that employs 4,200 people in the United States and Canada.

In its latest statement, the Xcel team said it has been cooperating with wildfire investigators and conducting its own review. While acknowledging the likely role its facilities look to have played in starting the fire, the company pushed back against claims it has acted negligently.

“Xcel Energy, through our Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) subsidiary, has operated in the Texas Panhandle for more than 100 years,” Xcel Chairman, President and CEO Bob Frenzel said. “The people in this region are our friends, neighbors and relatives. We are deeply saddened by the losses incurred in this community, and we are committed to supporting its renewal and recovery.”

The company has launched a claims services process for people who have lost property or livestock in the fire, which covered more than 1 million acres northeast of Amarillo—most of them in thinly-populated areas—at its peak and was 74% contained midday March 7, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Shares of Xcel (Ticker: XEL) were up about 1.5% to $49.17 in midday trading March 7 after climbing nearly 4% earlier in the day. They were changing hands above $57 before the company’s potential exposure to Texas fire liabilities came to light and are now near their lowest levels since 2018, leaving the company’s market capitalization at about $28 billion.

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