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Governor Perry Requests Federal Assistance for Fire-ravaged Counties

Location: Austin, TX

Governor Perry Requests Federal Assistance for Fire-ravaged Counties

Emergency Managers Coordinate Statewide Response, New Fires Crop Up in West Texas

Governor Perry today asked the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make citizens in Callahan, Cooke, Eastland, Erath, Hood and Montague counties eligible for long-term, low-interest rate loans to defray the costs of losses from wildfires that scorched those counties this week. More than 25 homes and businesses in the region have suffered damages equivalent to more than 40 percent of their values.

"Today I am expanding my request for federal aid so that families across the state who have lost homes, land and loved ones can get the help they need to rebuild their lives," Perry said. "I am also asking the federal government to make low-interest loans available to agriculture producers and business owners in an additional six Texas counties that have been impacted by wildfires, so that local economies and communities can rebound as quickly as possible."

Today's request comes on the heels of several other requests Perry has made to assist counties impacted by the wildfires. Perry has also:

* Issued a statewide declaration of emergency on Dec. 27 for all 254 counties due to the extreme wildfire threat,
* Requested the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make low interest loans available to farmers, ranchers and business owners in impacted counties to be designated when appropriate,
* Requested a presidential disaster declaration on Dec. 28 to make impacted counties eligible for federal public assistance to help rebuild communities and defray the millions of dollars spent by local governments to fight the fires, and
* Amended his presidential request on Dec. 30 to request to make individuals and families eligible for assistance to cover temporary housing and other basic needs.

Perry's requests for federal public assistance, if approved, will enable state and local agencies to be reimbursed for costs associated with fighting fires before they pose an immediate threat to lives and communities.

Wildfires continue to threaten counties across Texas, particularly in Upton, Reagan and Sterling counties in West Texas where eight fires are consuming an estimated 50,000 acres. Aircraft are dropping retardant at all fire sites in the region.

Since Monday, the state has responded to 20 wildfires which consumed 97,795 acres of land, destroyed 26 homes and forced the evacuation of 78 individuals. The state responded vigorously from the air with 659 aircraft sorties dropping 795,600 gallons of retardant to battle the blazes.

"Texas is continuing to coordinate an aggressive statewide effort to contain, control and extinguish wildfires, particularly in West Texas where new fires have cropped up," Perry said. "Because we have pre-deployed firefighting assets to critical areas, we are responding to emerging fire threats as soon as possible. The state will continue to make every effort with federal and local leaders to protect lives and property."

More than 520 state and out-of-state fire fighters are on the ground helping the thousands of local and volunteer fire fighters. Texas has 97 aircraft fighting the blazes from above, in addition to the 88 bulldozer crews and 32 fire engines fighting the fires from the ground.

Since the wildfire threat became extremely severe on December 26, 159 fires have consumed 254,555 acres and destroyed 238 homes in counties across Texas. Three Texans have lost their lives.

"I will continue to pray for the families of these Texans who lost their lives last week," Perry said. "All Texans must be vigilant when it comes to fire prevention."

The wildfire threat is expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead. Forecasts call for sustained low humidity and above average temperatures, as well as high winds.

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