Gov. Rick Perry, currently the frontrunner among GOP presidential candidates, has been forced to press President Obama for more than $50 million in federal aid.
At the same time, he defends the state's decision to slash by 74 percent the funding for the volunteer fire departments who do most of the work, and to cut the Texas Forest Service's budget by 34 percent, down to its 2008 level.
But what some have called Texas' "slash and burn" approach to balancing its state budget has left volunteer firefighters, who do about 80 percent of the work, in a lurch. Just last week, the most recent budget cuts meant 90 Texas Forest Service employees were laid off. Some volunteers pay for expenses out of pocket. And the repeated emergency calls are stressing equipment like tankers and pumpers not built for continuous use.
On Thursday, one of the Tomball tankers blew a transmission, leaving Hill on the sidelines as the Magnolia fire flared up, cutting across fire lines and highways, and forcing hundreds to rapidly flee their homes. Nearly 100 homes have been lost as a thick haze floated into Houston.
"It's very frustrating that they don't have the proper tools and resources to fight these fires," Chris Barron, the executive director of the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If fire departments had enough funding, if the forest service had enough funding, we wouldn't be in this predicament each and every year."