As fires raged across central Texas for the past three days, local citizens sprang into action to protect their lives and property. Local churches opened their doors and began hosting refugees left homeless by the fires which have now destroyed more than 1,000 homes and 100,000 acres across the state in just the past week. Several branches of the YMCA also began hosting families with children, and a public school in Bastrop County opened its doors to serve as an emergency relief center.
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.
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. 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, 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."