AUSTIN, Texas — The Federal Emergency Management Agency defended its decision to refuse more assistance for Texas in the wake of devastating wildfires, saying Wednesday that the state has already received sufficient U.S. government help.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry criticized the White House after learning that his April 16 request for a federal major disaster declaration and additional help had been rejected. Wildfires since November have blackened at least 2.2 million acres and damaged or destroyed more than 400 homes across the state, the governor said.
The federal government has already provided Texas with grants for response activities, FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen told The Associated Press in a statement.
"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," Racusen said. "Over the past few months, FEMA has awarded over 20 fire management grants to the state, which provide targeted funding to help with firefighting efforts, including 16 in April alone."
FEMA will continue to work closely with the state and local emergency management officials, Racusen said.
Perry said the state will consider all its options, including an appeal. FEMA says Texas has 30 days to appeal.
"I am dismayed that this administration has denied Texans the much needed assistance they deserve," Perry said.
Two firefighters died in separate incidents in April. Elias Macias Jaquez, who volunteered with the Cactus department, suffered severe burns. Gregory Mack Simmons, who was an Eastland firefighter, was killed after apparently being hit by a vehicle while in a smoke-filled area.
More than 200 Texas counties have outdoor burn bans as scattered wildfires continue. West Texas remains critically dry, according to the Texas Forest Service.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.