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Disaster Declaration Unlocks State and Federal Finances

AUSTIN (Nexstar) - When Gov. Greg Abbott issued a drought-related disaster declaration on Friday, he opened the door for agriculture producers to receive state and federal relief.

Drought conditions spurred the declaration, which covers 72 counties in the Panhandle and Central Texas.

"I want to assure the citizens of Texas that we will do all we can to respond to this threat and ensure their safety and the protection of their property," Abbott said. "I encourage those in these counties to heed the warnings of local officials and do all they can to stay out of harm's way. Texas is no stranger to wildfires, and will be prepared to respond as needed."

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the proclamation primarily targets farmers, allowing for reimbursement from weather-related losses. Counties must be included in the document for state and federal agencies to provide funds for certain assistance. State agencies, including the department of agriculture and DPS' department of emergency management, worked alongside the governor's office and federal groups to track the United States drought monitor data, which helps officials determine which counties to recommend the governor adds to the list.

"The governor recognized, as well as many of our state officials, that we do have a problem with the fire danger, and I don’t think that we want it to escalate to what we’re seeing in California and some of those other places," Travis County Emergency Services District 1 Fire Chief Donnie Norman said on Monday.

"The fire danger is very high statewide," Norman said.

Fire agencies may also apply for reimbursement through Fire Management Assistance Grants, which can help cover up to 75 percent of firefighting costs if the criteria is met.

"The last thing we want to do as fire chiefs is to worry about how we are going to fund the fire, that should come second," Norman said. "But, knowing that the governor in our state has stepped up to the plate and letting us know that those resources are available, well that is great."

The Texas A&M Forest Service said Monday that costs associated with two weekend fires in the Panhandle were approved through FMAGs.

State officials said the declaration may be updated as drought conditions worsen or improve. To see which counties are included in the declaration, click here.


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