Pray for rain, pray for no radioactive waste transport accidents

In spite of, Governor Rick Perry’s designation of this past Easter weekend as official days of prayer for rain, Texas is expected to break its yearly record for the number of acres burned by wildfires, with officials warning that today through Wednesday would see a high risk of fresh blazes.

2006 set the previous record of acres burned in one entire year at 1.94 million. So far this year, the figure is 1.84 million, and we’re just in April.  We’ve still got summer and a lot of the fire season left.

Meanwhile, a state report has found that many of the Texas counties that endured the worst damage from this month’s wildfires received only a small portion of the more than $128 million the state awarded to volunteer fire departments over about a decade for training and equipment.

According to the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association, there are 1,042 volunteer departments in Texas with about 28,000 firefighters and these make up the first line of defense for many of the counties that have been battling wildfires recently.

The sunset commission’s analysis, which was released in January and is currently being considered by the Texas Legislature, found counties with a low risk for wildfires had received a greater share of the $128 million handed out through the Texas Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program than many of those with the highest risk.  Specifically, 59 of the 74 counties determined to have a high risk for wildfires got less than $1 million in grant money for their volunteer fire departments from 2001 through 2009.

Three of the high-risk counties that received less than $1 million — Tom Green, Andrews and Palo Pinto — have been significantly affected by the current fires.

Andrews County is home to WCS’s hazardous waste dump, that could soon be open to “low-level” radioactive waste coming into the state from all over the country.  In addition to radioactive waste disposed of at the site, thousands of truckloads of radioactive waste could be traversing the Texas countryside over roads in counties prone to wildfire.  If an accident happens while our first responders are working to the point of exhaustion at local wildfires, I shudder to think about the consequences to the folks near an accident and the liability to the state.  I think the Governor needs to expand the parameters of his call to prayer.