Gov. Rick Perry today sent a letter to President Barack Obama appealing his administration's decision to deny Texas' request for a Major Disaster Declaration for counties that have been threatened or impacted by the devastating wildfire season. This declaration would provide much needed federal assistance to support response efforts for ongoing wildfires.
"As Texas continues to be impacted by the worst wildfire season in recent memory, I urge President Obama to reconsider and approve our request for federal assistance in fighting these fires," Gov. Perry said. "Our federal government has an obligation to assist Texas in its response efforts. Texas will continue applying all resources available to fight these fires and I commend the brave men and women who continue to put their lives on the line to protect Texas families and property."
The governor's appeal includes updated cost information for Texas' ongoing wildfire response, and reiterates his request for Direct Federal Assistance and Category B-Emergency Protective Measures. The letter specifically highlights why Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) approved to date are insufficient to meet the needs of local jurisdictions and state agencies that have been fighting wildfires since Dec. 2010. According to the Texas Forest Service, FMAGs may only cover about 21 percent of costs incurred by local and state response efforts. Federal guidelines allow a state that has been granted a major disaster declaration to be eligible to receive no less than a 75 percent cost share from the federal government, with state and local entities covering the remaining 25 percent of wildfire response costs.
A Major Disaster Declaration, originally requested on April 16, would make the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government. The governor's 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.
Gov. Perry also issued a statewide Emergency Disaster Proclamation on Dec. 21, 2010, which was subsequently renewed on Jan. 19, Feb. 17, March 18, April 15, and most recently on May 13.
The State of Texas has provided assistance to communities threatened by 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) has frequently been activated this season in order to provide additional assets from around the state. TIFMAS is a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during the threat of disasters.