Perry a No-Show at Texas Wildfire Press Conference

A burned pickup truck and boat are all that's visible in the forest off Texas Hwy 21 near Bastrop State Park after the wildfire went through on September 6, 2011.
A burned pickup truck and boat are all that's visible in the forest off Texas Hwy 21 near Bastrop State Park after the wildfire went through on September 6, 2011.

BASTROP — Gov. Rick Perry did not show up as expected Saturday at a news conference convened by his office to brief reporters on the Texas wildfires. Perry aides, citing “logistical issues,” said the governor initially had been scheduled to appear at a location with restricted access.

The location was changed to an accessible spot, which was a burned-out home and chocolate shop along the main highway, and local officials briefed the media on the fire situation without him.

"He's in Austin," said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for the governor, in response to a flurry of questions about Perry's whereabouts after the briefing. The governor did not go to Bastrop today, she added.

Another Perry spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said: “By the time we nailed down a second location we wouldn’t be able to get the governor there in time without making everybody wait."

Local and state officials appeared at the briefing to provide an update on a state voucher program that allows displaced residents to stay in hotels, in advance of the arrival of federal aid. Nearly 1,400 homes were destroyed in the Bastrop blaze, making it the most destructive fire in state history. Texas emergency management chief Nim Kidd also warned that as the brutal drought continues, fire danger across the state remains severe. "The next fire we have could be the worst one we've ever seen," Kidd said.

Perry is still scheduled to mark 10th anniversary of the the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with an appearance at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin on Sunday.

The governor is back in Texas after wrapping up a week-long campaign swing that took him to New Hampshire, South Carolina and California. Perry also participated in his first nationally televised debate, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and staged at least six fundraisers in California. He returned from California early this morning.

Late last night, the White House announced that President Obama had signed a disaster declaration that freed up federal funds for fire victims in Bastrop County. Perry and other state officials had urged the president to speed aid to Texas.

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