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.
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.
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
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."