Will Disaster Declaration be Made Following President Obama’s Visit to Texas?
It was announced earlier this week that President Barack Obama would be making two stops in Texas next week. My first thought? He's coming to see first hand the damage done by the wildfires. I was wrong. President Obama will be visiting El Paso and Austin Texas to speak on immigration and work a fund-raising campaign.
Over 7,000 wildfires have ravaged the state this year, hitting the worst point in April, the driest month in history for the South Plains area. Two firemen, over 400 homes, and millions of acres of land have been lost in the paths of the raging infernos. FEMA funds awarded to the state are proving to be limited in their usage, and although some of the worst fires are now under control, the devastation left by the blazes is proving to put up an equal fight.
In mid-April, Governor Rick Perry put in a request to declare Texas a major disaster area. The request included direct federal assistance in aviation, interface firefighting resources to support state and local agencies, and emergency protective measures to help save lives and protect property. After waiting weeks for a response, Texans were told the request for a disaster declaration had been denied. FEMA cited that they had already approved 25 fire management assistance grants for the state and that additional funds were not needed. Texas officials responded in an uproar, saying the funds weren't created to be used under such disastrous situations, and could not appropriately provide immediate and necessary assistance to those on the front lines.
Both Texas U.S. senators have invited President Obama to tour the wildfire-ravaged areas of the state. I don't really think anyone, including Cornyn and Hutchison, believe he will actually accept the offer. The president and his administration already demonstrated their lack-luster attitude towards the state's welfare last year, when the state had to fight tooth and nail to get a declaration for areas affected by tropical storms. the wildfire situation has proven to be about the same. Although the loss of life has thankfully been very low during these fires, the devastation Texans have endured is disastrous.
Anyone who has seen pictures of Possum Kingdom can tell that the wildfires are no laughing matter. It baffles me why an organization that has Emergency Management in it's name can turn such a blind eye to the desperate nature of Texas' condition. I would like to think that there is good reasoning behind their decision, but gut instinct just keeps screaming that there isn't. Hopefully the president's flight over the blighted areas of the Texas plains will stir up some kind of emotion to make him reconsider, however I heavily doubt it.