Fema Says “No” To Presidential Disaster Declaration for Wildfires

Is it politics or a practical response?

Late Tuesday night, FEMA denied a request  from Governor Rick Perry to declare parts of  Texas a Major Disaster so that property owners could get help to recover from the devastating wildfires. 

After a frustrating wait for an answer, the Governor last week blasted President Obama for moving quickly to declare tornado ravaged Alabama a major disaster, while leaving Texas in limbo.

  Early Tuesday, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn sent a letter to the president asking for assistance.

Late Tuesday FEMA notified Perry’s office that it had denied the request.

Politics or a practical response?

(news release)

Gov. Perry: FEMA Denies Presidential Disaster Declaration for Wildfires

 AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today criticized the Obama Administration for its denial late Tuesday of the state’s April 16th request for a federal Major Disaster Declaration to assist with the ongoing wildfire season, which has burned more than 2.2 million acres, an area roughly greater than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Since the wildfire season began in November 2010, Texas has responded to more than 9,000 fires across the state that have destroyed or damaged more than 400 homes.

“I am dismayed that this administration has denied Texans the much needed assistance they deserve. It is not only the obligation of the federal government, but its responsibility under law to help its citizens in times of emergency,” Gov. Perry said. “Our state has become a model for the nation in disaster preparedness and response, but Texas is reaching its capacity to respond to these emergencies. We will immediately look at all of our options, including appealing the denial, so Texans can receive the resources and support they need as wildfires continue to threaten life and property across our state.”

The State of Texas has continued to provide assistance to communities threatened by the raging fires this season, including deploying hundreds of Texas Forest Service personnel and air assets to assist with multiple fires; Texas Military Forces personnel and Blackhawk helicopters to assist fire suppression efforts; Texas Department of Transportation bulldozers and other resources as needed in the affected areas; and deploying Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol and multiple communications trailers to the Texas Forest Service Incident Command Post in Merkel, Texas and other areas across the state. 

Additionally, the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) is currently activated. TIFMAS is a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during the threat of disasters. 

A Major Disaster Declaration would make the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government. Texas’ original request included:

  • Direct Federal Assistance including aviation assets and wildland, structural and wildland/urban interface firefighting resources to state and local agencies in support of firefighting operations, and
  • Emergency Protective Measures – measures taken before, during and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and protect improved public and private property.

The governor issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on Dec. 21, 2010, which was subsequently renewed on Jan. 19, February 17, March 18 and April 15. This proclamation remains in effect as extreme wildfire conditions persist.

The State Operations Center has been partially activated and continues to work closely with the Texas Forest Service, National Weather Service and other state and local entities to monitor this severe wildfire threat.

Burn bans are currently active in 210 counties. To see the list of these counties, please visit http://tfsfrp.tamu.edu/wildfires/decban.png.

For more information on preparing for wildfire threats, please visit http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=8512.

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