Gov. Rick Perry continues to closely monitor the ongoing wildfires with updates from his staff and State Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd. He will return to Texas this afternoon. The governor is urging all Texans to closely monitor conditions and reports, and heed all warnings from local officials as extremely dry and windy conditions are expected to continue fueling wildfires that continue raging across the state. "The wildfire situation in Texas is severe and all necessary state resources are being made available to protect lives and property," Gov. Perry said. "I urge Texans to take extreme caution as we continue to see the devastating effects of sweeping wildfires impacting both rural and urban areas of the state. Our thoughts and prayers are with the first responders who are working around the clock to keep Texans out of harm’s way, and with the families across our state who are threatened by these wildfires."
Over the weekend, the Texas Forest Service (TFS) responded to 63 new fires that have burned approximately 32,936 acres, including new fires in Bastrop, Travis, Henderson, Limestone, Caldwell and Colorado counties, among others. TFS also continues to battle existing wildfires, including major fires in Palo Pinto, Briscoe, Coryell and Montague counties. Additional state resources assisting with wildfire response include:
• Texas Forest Service, with 15 single-engine air tankers, 12 helicopters, and 13 aerial supervision aircraft assets deployed to multiple fires;
• Texas Military Forces, with 2 CH-47 Chinook Aircraft and 2 UH-60 Blackhawks staged in Austin to fight central Texas fires, 2 UH-60 Blackhawks in San Antonio assisting with the fires in Colorado County, and 3 ground wildfire support packages consisting of 4 dozers and 16 personnel each;
• Texas Department of Public Safety emergency management personnel, highway patrol troopers, air assets and a mobile communications center deployed to Bastrop County; and
• Texas Department of Transportation is providing personnel, equipment, and fuel to responders.
Additionally, the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during the threat of disaster, is activated. TIFMAS resources deployed statewide include 13 command vehicles, 50 fire engines and 121 personnel (Central Texas resources specifically include five command vehicles, 19 fire engines and 47 personnel). Since the beginning of wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned more than 3.6 million acres. Gov. Perry has reissued his disaster proclamation nine times this wildfire season; it was originally issued on Dec. 21, 2010.
In addition to the state proclamations in April, the governor sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration, which would have made the state eligible for Direct Federal Assistance and Emergency Protective Measures from the federal government. The Obama Administration denied this request on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the president’s decision on May 26, and received partial approval of relief on July 1. A request to expand the scope of federal relief is still pending.