In a letter sent to President Barack Obama late Saturday afternoon, Gov. Rick Perry requested a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas as a result of widespread wildfires and continuing fire danger across the state. The governor identified 252 Texas counties presently threatened or impacted by wildfires. Since the wildfire season began, Texas has responded to 7,807 fires across the state that have burned more than 1,528,714 acres and destroyed 244 homes. Rescue efforts have saved 8,514 threatened homes.
"Texas is thankful to the brave men and women across the state who are battling these fires on the front lines and providing support to wildfire victims," said Gov. Perry. "As wildfires continue to rage across our state, Texas is reaching its capacity to respond to these emergencies and is in need of federal assistance. I urge President Obama to approve our request quickly so Texans can continue receiving the resources and support they need as wildfires remain an ongoing threat."
A Major Disaster Declaration makes the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government. Texas' request includes:
* 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 renewed on Jan. 19, February 17, March 18 and April 15. This proclamation remains in effect as extreme wildfire conditions persist.
For a copy of Gov. Perry's letter to President Obama and the renewed disaster proclamation, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/O-ObamaBarack20110416.pdf and http://governor.state.tx.us/news/proclamation/16009/.
Burn bans are currently active in 195 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.
In response to ongoing wildfire activity in recent weeks, the state activated the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS). Fire prevention and response resources from local fire departments across Texas have been deployed across the state to fight fires in counties including Callahan, Eastland, Garza, Kent, Midland, Moore, Palo Pinto, Pecos, Presidio, Stephens, Sterling and Tom Green counties. Resources are deployed 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 resources responding to the extreme fire danger include:
· Federal air assets including one DC-10 to Midland and two C-130s operating out of Abilene and Del Rio to assist with fire suppression efforts;
· 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 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.