As wildfires continue to sweep across the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized seven more grants to help Texas manage the flames, bringing the tally up to 52 grants to help fight fire this year. Although the figures for the grants given to Texas after June 2011 are not yet available, the Tribune decided to take a look at the $3.8 billion FEMA has given Texas to mitigate disasters over the course of more than a decade.
Texas received the largest lump sum for Hurricane Ike in 2008 when FEMA gave over $2 billion in hurricane relief grants to alleviate costs on the Texas coast. Hurricanes, coastal storms, severe storms and floods account for nearly 98 percent of the disaster funding Texas has received from FEMA.
Use this interactive map to see the number of declared disasters in each state from 1998 to June 2011 and the total funding in public assistance grants the state has received from FEMA to mitigate the costs.
Texas has also received $40 million from FEMA to fight fire on two occasions, in 1999 and 2006. The Cross Plains fire in 2006 occurred during a fire season that lasted 515 days, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings (including 734 homes) and killed 19 people. The Texas Forest Service was given more than $28 million from FEMA to help put out the flames that year.
The current wildfires have already destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Texas and at least one firefighter has been killed, according to the latest press release from the Texas Forest Service. The FEMA fire grants will be available to cover 75 percent of the expenses for field camps, equipment, supplies and mobilization activities after Texas reaches a minimum cost threshold. (Data is not currently available on the costs of fighting the fires or the amount of funding FEMA will ultimately provide.)
The largest “fire” FEMA ever helped put out was the attack at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. New York received $4.7 billion and New Jersey received $88 million from FEMA to help emergency teams and government agencies after the towers fell. The attack on the Pentagon that day was considered a “terrorist” incident, not a “fire,” and Virginia received $4.9 million from FEMA to handle the emergency.
New York is one of three states that have received more total aid for disasters than Texas. Louisiana, which received $10.8 billion after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and in 2005, tops the list, followed by Florida, which has received more than $4.6 billion for numerous hurricanes over the years.
California has accrued more grants to fight wildfires than Texas, at a cost of $409 million to FEMA. More than a quarter of that spending ($110 million) was used to fight the largest fire in California’s recorded history. The Cedar Fire that hit San Diego in 2003 destroyed 2,820 structures, 273,246 acres of land and killed 15 people.
(Grants given to Texas to fight the current fires are not accounted for in this data. All of the figures derived for this story are taken from the Public Assistance Funded Projects Summary data, which is available to download here. This database tracks all of the sub-grantees that have received funding from FEMA to help recover from major disasters and emergencies declared by the president from 1998 to June 2011.)
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.