Texas governor appeals fire disaster declaration

Reuters News
Posted: May 26, 2011 8:13 PM
Texas governor appeals fire disaster declaration

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday appealed the federal government's denial of a major disaster declaration for wildfires in the Lone Star State.

Battling the fires has cost the state more than $107 million, Perry said in a letter to President Barack Obama via the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Drought conditions and high winds have fueled the wildfires that since November have burned more than 2.7 million acres, destroyed 425 homes and killed two volunteer firefighters.

"The denial of a major disaster declaration request was a devastating blow to the severely affected communities of our state," Perry wrote.

The declaration, requested on April 16, would make it easier for Texas to get more federal help.

But FEMA has said that it has already awarded grants to Texas to aid in firefighting.

"FEMA has been in close contact with the state since the fires occurred, and based on the information they provided, it was determined that there was not a need for additional support at this time, beyond the federal assistance already provided," FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said following the May 3 denial.

Perry's letter said that the 28 grants approved by FEMA cover only 21 percent of the state's costs. It says that rural counties in particular -- which often rely on volunteer fire departments that do not receive tax revenue -- have been especially overwhelmed by costs.

"Wildfires continue to burn today, and the costs continue to rise," Perry wrote.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)