As wildfires rage across Texas, feds take control and scuttle volunteer firefighters
Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
See a YouTube video of a citizen's narrow escape around Highway 21 near Bastrop, Texas:
Federal agencies seize control on Tuesday
Hundreds of firefighters from all the surrounding counties worked two days and nights in a heroic effort to contain the fires, but high winds Sunday night and all day Monday thwarted their efforts. So the call went out for more volunteer firefighters to join the effort from across the state.
Before they arrived, however, the federal government showed up and claimed it was in charge of the situation. "Agents with the federal National Interagency Fire Center, a coalition of federal agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, assumed command of firefighting efforts Tuesday afternoon," reports The Gonzales Cannon (http://www.gonzalescannon.com/node/6411).
RealNewsReporter.com is now reporting that volunteer firefighters who had in some cases driven all night to reach Bastrop county were turned away by the feds, who claimed that since local officials never made a "formal request" for volunteers, the volunteers could not be "activated."
So while Bastrop County burns from 40+ fires that are still raging, the federal government is actually telling volunteer firefighters to go home.
"We were at the station getting set up into strike teams, and this guy came up and said that the U.S. Forest Service had 'assumed control of the situation, and that If you don’t have a vehicle that squirts water, go home,' said Gordon Greer of Kirbyville, in a RealNewsReporter article (http://www.realnewsreporter.com/?p=7889). Gordon reportedly drove all night Monday to arrive in Bastrop and take part in the firefighting effort. "You've got guys who had driven all night long from Corpus Christi and Brownsville on their own dime, and they turned them away," he said.
That same story reports that Jennifer Jones of the U.S. National Interagency Incident Center confirmed multiple federal agencies would be taking over the scene. Tuesday afternoon, the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management stated on its Facebook page that volunteer firefighters would have to be "activated by the National Forestry Service first."
In other words, if you're a local Texan and you want to help other Texans save their ranches, or their homes, or their businesses, you need permission from the federal bureaucracy first!
But some Texans aren't allowing their efforts to be thwarted. As Real News Reporter says in its story, a group of Texas Nationalist Movement members who are also certified firefighters are in the Bastrop area and aiding civilian relief efforts, with or without permission from Washington D.C.
FEMA is approving grant money to help pay for some firefighting efforts
On the good news side, FEMA has reportedly approved several government grants to pay for firefighting efforts, although it should be mentioned that if the federal government wasn't taking so much of everybody's money to begin with, local groups of people could more easily afford to pay for their own firefighting defense and wouldn't need grants to cover the costs in the first place.
FEMA has promised to cover up to 75 percent of approved firefighting costs, reports KXAN.com (http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/...), although this will no doubt require weeks or even months of detailed accounting and cost justification efforts.
Even Gov. Rick Perry eluded to the frustration of getting federal grants approved for relief efforts, saying, "It's more difficult than it should be to get those assets freed up from the federal government." (http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/...)
Perry did confirm that Texas "would seek federal disaster relief and that state officials were considering seeking military resources from Fort Hood," reports The Gonzales Cannon (http://www.gonzalescannon.com/node/6411).
(Military resources? What kind of military resources? I found it odd yesterday to personally witness what looked like U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters taking off and landing near the Tahitian Village fires in Bastrop. Does the U.S. military have constitutional authority to take part in firefighting operations on U.S. soil? Clearly, some military transport planes could be very useful right now, but we always have to be careful how much control we hand over to the military in these domestic situations... never forget posse comitatus!)
Also, this just confirmed: Gov. Perry has activated Texas Task Force 1, billed as an "elite search and rescue team," to head to Bastrop County and make sure everyone is accounted for: http://www.thestatecolumn.com/texas...
Other details on the fire
• Two fatalities have been reported so far: A young mother and her 18-month-old daughter were killed in Gladewater due to the wildfires there.
• Total property damage from the fire is now estimated at $100 million according to the Insurance Council of Texas. (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0...)
• Insurance companies have set up "claims camps" with large buses and tents to help the locals get their property claims handled. I personally saw several insurance industry buses on the North side of Highway 71 when we drove through.
• 85 fires are still burning across Texas. There is a rumor that at least one Texas fire was started by arson (the fire in Leander), but this has not been confirmed.
• Local churches have stepped up to provide aid, including the Ascension Catholic Church, Grace Lutheran Church and First Baptist Church.
• The winds died down significantly all day Tuesday, greatly slowing the spread of the fires. Low winds are also expected to hold out Wednesday. The severe drought conditions in Texas have made the state a fire tinderbox, and any wind over 5-10 mph could easily cause these fires to spread out of control once again (actually, they're still not even 10% contained, so they're not "in control" at all...)
• Rumor report: A DC-10 aircraft that has been retrofitted for firefighting has arrived in Bastrop County, according to reports on a Central Texas news radio station, but the plane will not be operational until Friday because of mandatory government "down time" restrictions on the flight crew. (Gee, is there nobody else who can fly a DC-10 in Texas? There were thousands of these planes in commercial operation over the past three decades... surely somebody can fly this hunk of steel, despite the fact that the hydraulics have no redundancy!)
NaturalNews wants to talk to some volunteer firefighters...
NaturalNews wishes to thank www.RealNewsReporter.com for covering this story, and I personally would like to know if anyone can put us in touch with Daniel Miller or other members of the Texas Nationalist Movement who would like to be interviewed about all this to tell the rest of the story. Our offices may be contacted at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.Facebook.com/naturalnews and send a private message. We are especially interested in stories of local Texans who are trying to help the situation being sent home or interfered with by federal agencies such as FEMA. We all saw what FEMA did to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and we sure don't need that same "government solution" in Central Texas.
As Rep. Ron Paul has rightly pointed out during numerous interviews, "FEMA to the rescue" isn't always a good thing.
Texas volunteer firefighters buy their own gear!
Many of the volunteers currently fighting the wildfires in Texas buy their own gear! Please consider supporting them through the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund:
"Over 77 percent of fire departments in Texas are volunteer departments who struggle daily on getting the equipment they need to respond to emergencies across the state," said Chief Chris Barron, Director of the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas (SFFMA). "Eighty-six percent of the state's volunteer firefighters use personal funds for their departments' safety equipment and supply needs." (http://www.globenewswire.com/newsro...)
Sources for this story include: