FEMA's response to wildfire crisis under scrutiny - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

FEMA's response to wildfire crisis under scrutiny

UPSHUR COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The fire danger is still here, but right now how the federal government handled the latest round of the Texas wildfire disaster is under scrutiny.

On Monday, a Texas Congressman brought the House Homeland Security Oversight and Investigations Sub-committee from Washington, D.C. to our state capitol.

A Texas Congressman wanted answers into how the government handled the wildfire crisis.

In East Texas, Upshur County was hit hard; nearly a dozen homes burned in just one wildfire.

In this case, FEMA was already on the ground.

Gilmer firefighter Billy Williams was too.

"Personally, I think they did an awesome job with the response. They had help go out to try to locate the houses that did burn and people who lost property to try to get them in to fill out the forms and request forms for FEMA. I think they took care of it," Williams remarked.

The congressman told the government that many fire departments were faced with a tough decision: filling out FEMA paperwork for reimbursement or fighting fires.

"We were real busy on several fires to where we had guys that weren't able to fill the paperwork out. We just had to leave it and go," explained Williams.

As with any government agency, FEMA has a protocol to attain funds. The government says paperwork has to be filed when a fire first begins. On Monday, they tried to explain why.

Right now, Williams say his department and the county are hoping they are reimbursed for the countless man hours, fuel costs and repairs they ran into in that week of crisis.
     
"It's just time consuming," says Williams.

While they wait for those funds, the government says they are re-examining how to better position their resources in the wake of the most devastating wildfire in Texas history.

Both Upshur and Smith county had no complaints as far as how FEMA handled their water-drops from aircrafts.

Most of those concerns stemmed from Bastrop wildfire.

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