Wildfires Force Gov. Perry to Leave Campaign Trail and Return to Texas
September 5, 2011

After taking part in several presidential campaign events, Governor Rick Perry announced he is returning to Texas to oversee the state’s response to the devastating wildfires near Austin.

The flames have consumed three hundred homes and scorched more than fourteen thousand acres.

Governor Perry did cancel one appearance he was scheduled to make with several of his GOP challengers and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

The governor’s office released this statement a little while ago:

Gov. Perry: All Necessary State Resources Made Available to Protect Lives, Property

Urges Texans to Heed Warnings of Statewide Wildfire Threat

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry continues to closely monitor the ongoing wildfires with updates from his staff and State Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd. He will return to Texas this afternoon. The governor is urging all Texans to closely monitor conditions and reports, and heed all warnings from local officials as extremely dry and windy conditions are expected to continue fueling wildfires that continue are raging across the state.

“The wildfire situation in Texas is severe and all necessary state resources are being made available to protect lives and property,” Gov. Perry said. “I urge Texans to take extreme caution as we continue to see the devastating effects of sweeping wildfires impacting both rural and urban areas of the state. Our thoughts and prayers are with the first responders who are working around the clock to keep Texans out of harm’s way, and with the families across our state who are threatened by these wildfires.”

Over the weekend, the Texas Forest Service (TFS) responded to 63 new fires that have burned approximately 32,936 acres, including new fires in Bastrop, Travis, Henderson, Limestone, Caldwell and Colorado counties, among others. TFS also continues to battle existing wildfires, including major fires in Palo Pinto, Briscoe, Coryell and Montague counties.

Additional state resources assisting with wildfire response include:

· Texas Forest Service, with 15 single-engine air tankers, 12 helicopters, and 13 aerial supervision aircraft assets deployed to multiple fires;
· Texas Military Forces, with 2 CH-47 Chinook Aircraft and 2 UH-60 Blackhawks staged in Austin to fight central Texas fires, 2 UH-60 Blackhawks in San Antonio assisting with the fires in Colorado County, and 3 ground wildfire support packages consisting of 4 dozers and 16 personnel each;
· Texas Department of Public Safety emergency management personnel, highway patrol troopers, air assets and a mobile communications center deployed to Bastrop County; and
· Texas Department of Transportation is providing personnel, equipment, and fuel to responders.

Additionally, the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during the threat of disaster, is activated. TIFMAS resources deployed statewide include 13 command vehicles, 50 fire engines and 121 personnel (Central Texas resources specifically include five command vehicles, 19 fire engines and 47 personnel).

Since the beginning of wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned more than 3.6 million acres. Gov. Perry has reissued his disaster proclamation nine times this wildfire season; it was originally issued on Dec. 21, 2010.

In addition to the state proclamations in April, the governor sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration, which would have made the state eligible for Direct Federal Assistance and Emergency Protective Measures from the federal government. The Obama Administration denied this request on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the president’s decision on May 26, and received partial approval of relief on July 1. A request to expand the scope of federal relief is still pending.
To view the governor’s renewed disaster proclamation, please visit

http://governor.state.tx.us/news/proclamation/16543/.

For more information on preparing for wildfire threats, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/wildfires.

President Obama Approves Disaster Request Following Wildfires
July 1, 2011

 

President Obama today declared parts of Texas a major disaster area, clearing the way for federal assistance. This comes months after Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn made the official requests and accused the President of intentionally ignoring Texas because of political reasons.

Governor Perry issued a statement today after receiving word of President Obama’s decision.   

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on Disaster Request Approval

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s approval of a portion of Texas’ request for a disaster declaration resulting from 11,940 wildfires that have consumed more than 3.2 million acres since December 2010: 

“President Obama’s decision to finally approve a portion of our disaster designation request is good for Texas and some of the communities impacted by this season’s wildfires. We will continue to work with FEMA to ensure all affected jurisdictions and entities receive the support they deserve after battling these massive fires since December. Our prayers continue to go out to those putting their lives on the line fighting these fires, as well as those whose property and livelihoods remain in danger.”

 This partial approval only applies to fires fought between April 6 and May 3, 2011, covering just a fraction of the fires fought in Texas so far this season.

 On April 15, Gov. Perry sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas, which would make the state eligible for Direct Federal Assistance and Emergency Protective Measures from the federal government. The governor’s request was denied on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the president’s decision on May 26.

 

Counties qualifying for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, include: Andrews, Archer, Armstrong, Bailey, Baylor, Brewster, Callahan, Carson, Castro, Clay, Coleman, Concho, Cottle, Crockett, Dawson, Duval, Eastland, Garza, Glasscock, Hall, Hemphill, Hockley, Irion, Kent, King, Lynn, Martin, Mason, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Pecos, Presidio, Scurry, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Trinity, Tyler, Val Verde, and Young.
Gov. Perry reminds all Texans of the ongoing threat of wildfires, and urges everyone to observe burn bans and fireworks bans in place over Independence Day weekend.

 

For more information on wildfires, including a list of counties under burn bans and how to prepare for the threat of wildfires, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/wildfires.

 

What Texans Are Saying About President Obama’s Visit to Texas
May 10, 2011

President Obama will make a quick swing through the Lone Star state today. His first stop is in El Paso where he will make a speech on immigration.  His second stop will be in Austin, where he will attend two political fundraisers.

A spokeswoman for Governor Perry told me Monday that the Governor requested a meet and greet with Mr. Obama in El Paso, but was turned down by the White House.  No surprise really. 

A longtime critic of  President Obama, Governor Perry has been turning up the heat ever since FEMA denied his request for a disaster declaration to help the victims of the Texas wildfires. Republicans released this video on Monday: 

http://youtu.be/ET6rOBSGCms

Meanwhile,  Congressman John Culberson (R-Houston) released a statement ahead of  President Obama’s visit:  “The President doesn’t often visit our state, so it is understandable that he would’ve missed the successful bipartisan work my colleagues and I have done to implement and fund Operation Streamline. Under this strict enforcement policy, everyone caught crossing the border illegally is arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for up to six months. We have had great success in the Del Rio and Laredo Sectors and are working to expand it from Brownsville to San Diego,” said Congressman Culberson.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) has been invited to attend President Obama’s speech on immigration reform in El Paso.  She issued the following statement:

“The President will make a very important announcement…in my home state of Texas, and I am pleased to be invited.  Further, I am delighted to join Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, an expert on national security and border security, and who served for many years at the Customs and Border Protection agency, in his district.  I have worked for years on immigration reform, and I have continuously introduced the Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act, including in the 111th Congress.  That bill has a clear road map for access to citizenship, which includes penalties and fines, in addition to a waiting period along with the responsibility to not jump in front of other applicants for citizenship.”

I’m travelling to Austin today. Look for my live reports this afternoon on KPRC Local 2.

Will President Obama Visit Parts of Texas Ravaged By Wildfires?
May 6, 2011

President Obama will visit Texas next week. His schedule calls for him to deliver a speech on immigration reform in El Paso and then attend a fundraiser in Austin.

Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both republicans, have invited President Obama to tour fire – damaged regions during his visit to Texas.

Earlier this week the President turned down Governor Perry’s request for a major disaster declaration for the areas of our state ravaged by the devastating fires.

No word yet from the White House on whether President Obama will accept the invitation to tour the area. He will see homes lost, land scorched and hear stories from property owners who have been devastated.

I’ve posted the full news release from Senators Hutchison and Cornyn.

 

News Release:

Sens. Hutchison, Cornyn Invite President To Tour Fire-Damaged Regions During Upcoming Visit to Texas

 

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, R-Texas, today sent the following letter to President Barack Obama inviting him to tour areas of Texas devastated by wildfires during his upcoming visit to the state. The White House has announced the President will visit Texas next week for a fundraising event in Austin and an event related to immigration in El Paso. The Senators hope President Obama will accept their invitation to see the fire damage firsthand and reconsider his recent denial of the State’s request for a federal disaster declaration.

Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn wrote, “We are hopeful that after seeing this devastation firsthand, you will reconsider your recent denial and provide the State and localities with the vital resources and funding required to fully support their work.”

May 6, 2011

 

The President

The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are writing to invite you to tour areas of Texas recently devastated by wildfires during your announced visit to the State next week.

We have written to you and your Administration on numerous occasions regarding our constituents and their struggle to combat and control the wildfires that have engulfed large portions of Texas.  The importance of issuing a federal disaster declaration at the state of Texas’ request in order to reduce the burden these wildfires have imposed on our constituents and communities cannot be overstated.    

We were disappointed to learn that your Administration denied the State’s request for federal assistance considering that over 7,000 individual wildfires have burned more than 2.2 million acres this year alone.  This has resulted in the destruction of homes, businesses, farms and ranches, and the death of two brave firefighters. 

Therefore, we invite you to tour fire-stricken areas and meet with the brave firefighters and other personnel working to stop the advance of the wildfires and save lives. We believe that a tour will reinforce the severity of the damage and threat that the wildfires pose to our State and constituents.  We are hopeful that after seeing this devastation firsthand, you will reconsider your recent denial and provide the State and localities with the vital resources and funding required to fully support their work.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.  We look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON                                                            JOHN CORNYN

United States Senator                                                                          United States Senator

Fema Says “No” To Presidential Disaster Declaration for Wildfires
May 3, 2011

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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