West Texas Counties Left Out of Wildfire Aid

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - When it comes to how bad this fire season has been, you only need to look at the aftermath.

So far this year, thousands of wildfires have scorched millions of acres costing the state more than $100 million in damages.

Last week, federal wildfire aid was approved for 45 counties in Texas, half of the 90 that Governor Rick Perry requested.

Receiving aid means 75% of the cost of battling wildfires will be shouldered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But for counties hit hard by fires so far this year like Midland, Ector and Jeff Davis, they weren't on the list.

Citizens and officials want to know why.

"We feel a little left out also because this is the biggest wildfire in Texas and we certainly feel like we deserve some aid," Jeff Davis County Judge, George Grubb, said.

With the Rock House Fire not far from memory, many in Fort Davis and elsewhere wonder why their county wasn't selected.

NewsWest 9 investigated, spending the day calling Midland County officials and local Representatives and Congressmen Mike Conaway, Tom Craddick and Francisco Canseco.

NewsWest 9 also called the Texas Forest Service.

Many of the officials who answered our questions said they were disappointed and trying to find out why these counties were passed up for aid when they need it to recover from all these fires.

"Where we need the help most right now is to replenish those supplies that we expended during the Rock House fire," Grubb said.

Officials were also upset that the aid was given based on fires that happened between April 6th and May 3rd, when so many fires have raged since last December.

NewsWest 9 called the F.E.M.A. regional office in Denton, Texas, where a representative couldn't give us a specific reason why certain counties were passed up, but said they did give Fire Management Assistance Grants to Jeff Davis for the Rock House fire and to Midland for the CEED Fire.

Those grants provide funds to help contain fires but some local representatives said they were insufficient.

NewsWest 9 also contacted Governor Perry's office.

Perry's original request for aid was denied, but his office made an appeal for 90 counties at the end of May.

According to his letter to President Obama, Midland and Ector Counties weren't even on the list for the appeal. Jeff Davis County was, but they didn't make the final 45-county cut, and now they and many other West Texans, both citizens and officials, are now looking to get to the bottom of this.

The West Texas counties that were part of the appeal were: Andrews, Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Glasscock, Jeff Davis, Martin, Mitchell, Pecos, Presidio, Reagan, Sterling, Terrell, Reeves and Ward County.

The counties that actually received aid were: Andrews, Brewster, Crockett, Glasscock, Martin, Mitchell, Pecos, Presidio, Sterling and Terrell County.

The F.E.M.A. office did tell NewsWest 9 that additional assistance may come if it's warranted or if the state requests it.

NewsWest 9 has also been working with local officials, passing on the information we've collected to them.