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Public Statements

Gov. Perry Tours Areas Devastated by Wildfires

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Merkel, TX

Gov. Rick Perry today toured an area of West Texas that has been affected by wildfires that have intensified in the region over the past several days, and met with local officials and first responders who are working to battle the fires. State resources were deployed across the state over the weekend, and continue to assist local efforts while dangerous conditions continue.

"As we witness devastation, we also witness the best in human nature - as exhibited in the heroism of men and women who run toward danger as everyone else flees - and the generosity of Texans opening their homes and hearts to those displaced by these fires," Gov. Perry said. "The threat of wildfires is one we've lived with consistently for months, and I urge Texans to continue heeding all warnings from fire and local officials and to take whatever precautions necessary to minimize the risk of wildfire."

Currently, state resources are assisting local emergency responders in fighting 14 major fires in 19 counties, including Brewster, Brown, Coke, Crosby, Eastland, Garza, Jeff Davis, Kent, Knox, Midland, Moore, Pecos, Palo Pinto, Potter, Presidio, Sterling, Stonewall, Terrell and Tom Green. Gov. Perry's renewed disaster proclamation remains in effect for 249 Texas counties, making them eligible to request assistance as needed to respond to the wildfires.

"We are Texans, and when disaster strikes, our citizens rise to meet the challenge," Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. "I commend the courageous firefighters who are battling these blazes and saving lives. For those who are displaced by this disaster, we will stand by you and will assist you in the recovery to get you back on your feet."

In response to this weekend's activity, the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) has been activated. Fire prevention and response resources from 60 fire departments across the state, including 74 fire engines, 18 command vehicles and 160 personnel from local fire departments, are deploying to Andrews, Brewster, Eastland, Garza, Glasscock, Haskell, Jeff Davis, Kent, King, Knox, Midland, Palo Pinto, Presidio, Stephens, Stonewall and Tom Green counties, and the Texas Forest Service Incident Command Post (ICP) in Merkel. Resources will deploy and adjust location according to the changing wildfire threat and local needs. TIFMAS is a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during threat of disaster.

Additional state resources responding to the extreme fire danger include:

* Texas Forest Service - more than 750 personnel and 22 air assets deployed to multiple fires;
* Texas Military Forces - Four Blackhawk helicopters remain on alert, two each in San Antonio and Austin, for rapid deployment to assist with fire suppression efforts;
* Texas Department of Transportation has provided bulldozers and other resources in affected areas;
* Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol and Texas Division of Emergency Management Regional Liaison Officers have been deployed.

Additionally, volunteer organizations including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief have been providing resources, supplies and shelter to first responders and fire victims in the impacted areas.

The National Weather Service warns that strong winds in the Texas Panhandle combined with relatively low humidity will create extremely critical fire weather conditions in the area over the next 48 hours. Sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph are expected.

The governor issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on Dec. 21, 2010, which was renewed on Jan. 19, February 17 and March 18. This proclamation remains in effect as extreme wildfire conditions persist. Additionally, burn bans are currently active in 188 counties. To see the list of these counties, please visit http://tfsfrp.tamu.edu/wildfires/decban.png

Since wildfire season began, Texas has responded to more than 7,400 fires across the state that have burned more than 973,000 acres and destroyed 208 homes. Rescue efforts have saved more than 7,000 threatened homes. For more information on preparing for wildfire threats, please visit
http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=8512

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.

To view the governor's renewed disaster proclamation, please visit
http://governor.state.tx.us/news/proclamation/15854/


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