USA — After months of wildfires that have scorched more than 1.2 million acres of the Lone Star State, President Obama today declared the state a major disaster area.
Gov. Rick Perry, the states Republican senators and GOP legislators in Austin and Washington have been hammering Obama since April, saying that the president was ignoring a crisis in Texas while responding to other disasters in Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere. Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel said the state did not qualify for major disaster status because fires are treated differently than other natural disasters. White House officials flatly denied any bias against Texas, as was alleged by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, and Perry.
The Texas governor repeatedly filed requests for a presidential disaster declaration, even after Obamas serial refusal to approve his requests. The White House announcement this afternoon came on the day Perry underwent minor back surgery.
The federal disaster declaration covered 45 counties, primarily in West Texas. The White House announcement said the new aid is designed to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by wildfires during the period of April 6 to May 3, 2011.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison all released late-Friday statements supporting the presidents declaration. Perry, in his statement, was quick to point out that he thought the federal support, while good for Texas, was late.
This partial approval only applies to fires fought between April 6 and May 3, 2011, covering just a fraction of the fires fought in Texas so far this season, the statement read. On April 15, Gov. Perry sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas the governors request was denied on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the presidents decision on May 26.
In his joint statement with Sen. Hutchison, Sen. Cornyn struck a tone similar to the governors.
I am glad the President finally answered the repeated calls of officials in Texas, Cornyn said in the statement. Im disappointed that he took so long to issue this declaration for the first responders, farmers, ranchers and landowners in Texas who suffered through the loss of hundreds of structures and thousands of wildfires.
Well bring you reaction from Texas officials as we receive it.
The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by wildfires during the period of April 6 to May 3, 2011.
Federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in the counties of Andrews, Archer, Armstrong, Bailey, Baylor, Brewster, Callahan, Carson, Castro, Clay, Coleman, Concho, Cottle, Crockett, Dawson, Duval, Eastland, Garza, Glasscock, Hall, Hemphill, Hockley, Irion, Kent, King, Lynn, Martin, Mason, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Pecos, Presidio, Scurry, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Trinity, Tyler, Val Verde, and Young.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Kevin L. Hannes as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.