FEMA Denies Disaster Declaration Despite 2.2 Million Acres Burned in Texas

By Beau Berman
CBS 7 News (West Texas) | May 5, 2011

Greenwood, Texas - With wild fires scorching so much of the state and inflicting so much economic damage, many Texans including politicians and fire fighters are wondering why a disaster has not been declared.

Following the horrific tornados in Alabama, the state received a disaster declaration, which includes millions in federal money, but despite weeks and weeks of wild fires destroying much of Texas there’s been no declaration. The Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department and fire fighters like Kristi Griffin know how much it costs to fight wild fires, because they're on the front lines day in and day out.

"Most of it is fuel costs. It's big trucks, they take a lot of gas to get around", says Griffin.

Griffin, along with Governor Rick Perry and Senator John Cornyn believe those costs are too much for Texas to bear on its own.

"We're disappointed. By all accounts this fire season has started out to be one of the worst according to our veteran fire fighters so it raises the question of exactly how bad does it have to get", says Griffin.

Governor Perry addressed his failed request to FEMA this week before the media.

"I think we've had 9000 separate fires in the state of Texas. The federal government has only helped us with 25 of them. That's inappropriate. I think this administration needs to be responsive to the people of the state of Texas", he said.

In the past, Governor Perry has denied federal aid from the government, prompting Senator Cornyn to speculate whether politics are playing into FEMA's decision to not declare a disaster in Texas.

"I think it demonstrates a complete lack of awareness and appreciation for how these fires have affected the lives and property of so many people in our state", says Senator Cornyn.

FEMA spokeswoman, Rachel Racusen sent CBS 7 the following statement:

"We have approved 25 fire management assistance grants to help cover expenses for these emergency response efforts. Each of these grants covers 75 percent of the costs to fight the fires".  But from Greenwood to west Odessa to Iraan, volunteer fire departments are low on money and some fire fighters like Kristi Griffin are short on patience with FEMA.

"We're disappointed and hoping something else can be done", says Griffin.

The Greenwood Volunteers are having fish dinners, sending out mailers and doing other fundraisers to survive these tough times.

There’s no deadline for a disaster declaration so if fires grow worse, it’s still possible that one could be declared in Texas.

http://www.cbs7kosa.com/news/details.asp?ID=25325

  • Steven

    I know FEMA may be having a hard time dealing with the aftermath of the twisters in Dixie, but why don’t they give us Texans a hand, eh?