White House denies TX as "major disaster area"; local leaders frustrated
POSTED: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 5:32pm
UPDATED: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 1:52am
TEXAS — This year, almost 7,000 separate wildfires have destroyed more than two million acres in Texas, burning hundreds of homes, businesses, and farms.
Conditions are still dry. In fact, 210 of Texas' 254 counties are under a burn ban.
Back in March, Texas Governor Rick Perry requested a statewide disaster declaration from FEMA that would give the state financial aid to combat the fires..
When tornadoes ripped through Alabama in April, White House officials immediately declared it a disaster area. Meanwhile in Texas, fires the size of Rhode Island were burning, and FEMA still had not responded to Perry's request.
"I think this administration needs to be responsive to the people of the state of Texas. It seems to me they were very responsive and appropriately so to the citizens of Alabama," says Governor Perry.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas wrote a letter to FEMA asking them to expedite the request and got no response.
Tuesday, they wrote a letter to President Obama urging for assistance, and they finally got an answer. Senator Cornyn says, "I'm very disappointed that the Obama Administration...yesterday... after dragging their feet for weeks informed Governor Perry that his request had been denied."
Senator Cornyn says there was no explanation. "I'm frankly baffled," he says.
FEMA says Texas has received 25 fire assistance grants in the last two months. "I think we've had 9,000 separate fires in the state of Texas, and the federal government has only helped us with 25 of them. I think that's inappropriate," says Gov. Perry.
Now, some state leaders say it's hard not to speculate. Sen. Cornyn says, "Texas has not been a place that's received, to my view, equal and fair-handed treatment with other places in the country. There seems to be a lot of politics in the calculation."
Texas has 30 days to appeal the denial. Governor Perry says the state is considering its options.