Texas Governor Visits Fire-Plagued Towns; 3,200 Evacuated

January 3, 2006

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Jan. 2 traveled to Nacona and Ringgold, two towns in fire-ravaged Montague County where 3,200 residents were evacuated to safety yesterday. Perry met with local officials and took a helicopter tour to assess damages, the governor’s office said.

“Texas is continuing to make every effort to protect lives and property,” Perry said in a news release. “And we have received much-appreciated aid from other states, including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, and support from the U.S. Forest Service.”

In the past 24 hours, the state responded to 58 wildfires which destroyed 72 homes and burned almost 50,000 acres of land. Ringgold was particularly hard-hit, with its approximately 100 residents losing 32 homes. To battle these blazes, Texas aircraft flew 122 missions dropping more than 147,350 gallons of fire retardant.

“I want to thank the thousands of fire fighters throughout the state who – at great peril – have saved the lives and homes of their fellow Texans Their efforts have been remarkable,” Perry said. “Since the fires began, more than 500 homes and entire towns have been saved by our heroic local firefighting crews and a quick and coordinated statewide response.”

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 last week, Gov. Perry has taken the following steps to assist the communities impacted by the fires:

–Issued a statewide declaration of emergency Dec. 27 for all 254 Counties due to the extreme wildfire threat,
–Requested the federal Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make low interest loans available to affected farmers, ranchers and business owners,
–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 that individuals and families be made eligible for federal assistance to help rebuild their lives and homes.

Since the rash of wildfires began in December, 139 fires have consumed more than 80,000 acres of land and destroyed 241 homes across the state. Three Texans have lost their lives.

“We share in the grief of those who have lost family members and loved ones, and we offer you our prayers,” Perry said. “I thank communities across Texas for the strength you have shown. Just as we have fought these fires together as a state, we will recover together as a state.”

Perry also warned that the wildfire threat is expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead. Weather conditions are projected to worsen tomorrow, with sustained low humidity and above average temperatures. Forecasters are also predicting high winds, which increase the difficulty of fighting the fires from the air.

“We are preparing statewide for an intense response tomorrow, particularly from the ground,” Perry added. “The state is poised to protect communities across the state, with firefighting assets pre-deployed so that we can immediately respond to new wildfire threats wherever they appear.”

Source: Texas Governor’s Office

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