FEMA Denies Presidential Disaster Declaration for Texas Wildfires

May 4, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that the Federal Emergency Management Administration has denied the state’s April 16 request for a federal Major Disaster Declaration to assist with the ongoing wildfire season, which has burned more than 2.2 million acres, an area roughly greater than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Since the wildfire season began in November 2010, Texas has responded to more than 9,000 fires across the state that have destroyed or damaged more than 400 homes.

The Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) is currently activated. TIFMAS is a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during the threat of disasters.

According to the Texas Forest Service, no new large fires have sprung up in recent days, but three major fires spanning 498,494 acres continue to burn. Of Texas’ 254 counties, 210 are reporting burn bans.

Uncontained major fires from previous days include:

ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties. 314,444 acres, 95 percent contained. The fire is being managed by the Southern Area Type I Incident Management Team.

DEATON COLE, Val Verde County. 175,000 acres, 75 percent contained. The fire is in rugged terrain 30 miles southwest of Ozona, burning in tall grass and brush. Numerous ranch houses are threatened. Three strike teams of TIFMAS engines are assisting. Commercial air tankers and MAFFs tankers worked the fire most of the day on May 2 and made good progress on the fire.

OASIS, Kimble County. 9,050 acres, 75 percent contained. Numerous engines, dozers, and helicopters continue to work the fire that is burning four miles south of Junction. TIFMAS strike teams of engines is on scene to do structure protection.

A Major Disaster Declaration would make the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government. Texas’ original request included:

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 subsequently renewed on Jan. 19, Feb. 17, March 18 and April 15. This proclamation remains in effect as extreme wildfire conditions persist.

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.

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