Texas to receive federal disaster help for wildfires

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 01, 2011 6:53 PM
Texas to receive federal disaster help for wildfires

By Elliott Blackburn

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's administration approved increased assistance for scorched Texas communities on Friday after an appeal from Governor Rick Perry.

Obama declared a major disaster in 45 counties, many of them in the state's dry and charred west, for damage sustained as wildfires raged through grassland and scrub in April.

The declaration covers damage from April 6 to May 3, a portion of the 3.2 million acres of wildfire that has burned across Texas this year.

State and local governments may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the cost of clearing debris and firefighting efforts to protect property.

Perry, a Republican sharply critical of the federal government who is weighing the idea of a presidential run in 2012, had appealed in May after FEMA denied a first request for help.

FEMA's approval on Friday covers only a small portion of the communities damaged in the fires, Perry said in a statement. He vowed to continue working to receive more assistance for other communities.

"President Obama's decision to finally approve a portion of our disaster designation request is good for Texas and some of the communities impacted by this season's wildfires," Perry said in the statement.

"Our prayers continue to go out to those putting their lives on the line fighting these fires, as well as those whose property and livelihoods remain in danger."

Kevin Hanes, the FEMA coordinating officer for the area, said in a statement it is possible the federal agency could approve additional disaster declarations for Texas' wildfires.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)