Governor views damage from Texas wildfires

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Gov. Rick Perry took to the air Tuesday to survey some of the ravaged counties of West Texas devastated by wildfires that have blackened tens of thousands of acres, destroyed dozens of homes and left one firefighter critically injured.

Perry flew in a plane over fires still burning in the rolling plains of Stonewall County with state emergency management chief Nim Kidd before appearing at a news conference at a Texas Forest Service command center in the town of Merkel in Taylor County.

Perry said that even as firefighters gained the initiative on some of the biggest fires, "Our experience tells us that we have a long way to go."

State crews are supporting local efforts to fight 14 major wildfires in 19 West Texas counties.

Nearby Tom Green County has lost 11,000 acres to the flames, while nearly 17,000 acres have burned in Midland County and more than 103,000 acres in Stonewall, Knox and King counties. Another blaze that erupted in Presidio County destroyed 40 homes in neighboring Jeff Davis County over the weekend. Firefighters got the 108,000-acre Presidio County fire 60 percent contained Tuesday.

Perry on Sunday renewed a disaster proclamation for 249 of the state's 254 counties, making them eligible to request government assistance as needed to respond to wildfires.

The governor's initial proclamation was Dec. 21, but was renewed on Jan. 19, Feb. 17 and March 18, as extreme wildfire conditions and the drought lingered.

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