Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Attorney General Abbott Participates in Wildfire Briefing, Visits Displaced Texans at Bastrop County Red Cross ShelterBASTROP, TX – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today traveled to Bastrop County, where he participated in a briefing with state and local emergency management authorities and urged local residents to take precautions during these dangerous wildfire conditions. The Attorney General also reminded area retailers and hotel operators that the governor’s disaster declaration prohibits vendors from price gouging during a declared disaster. After meeting with local authorities, Attorney General Abbott visited a Red Cross shelter for displaced residents at Bastrop Middle School.
“With more than 30,000 acres already consumed by the Bastrop County Fire - and thousands more acres affected in other regions of Central Texas and across the State - it is vitally important that Texans take all necessary precautions to protect themselves during a very dangerous disaster situation,” Attorney General Abbott said. “All Texans should be aware that drought conditions pose a tremendous threat, so we must all work to prevent these fires before they ignite. Texans who reside in areas with active fires should develop a plan for ensuring their families can evacuate their homes and safely exit affected areas in less than 10 minutes. Careful, advanced preparation is critical to saving lives during these very dangerous conditions.”
Attorney General Abbott added: “In the wake of Governor Perry’s disaster declaration, which applies to the entire State of Texas, price gouging prevention laws are triggered that prevent retailers and hotel operators from unlawfully profiting from a declared natural disaster. The Attorney General’s Office is committed to strictly enforcing the State’s price gouging laws, which apply to necessities such as groceries, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after the crisis. We will continue working closely with Governor Perry, Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, and other officials to provide all necessary support during this very difficult and dangerous situation.”
Gov. Perry’s disaster declaration is effective in all Texas counties. A disaster declaration triggers strict penalties under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which prevents retailers and hotel operators from charging exorbitant prices for necessities during a declared disaster.
According to the Texas Forest Service, the Bastrop County Complex fire, which started on Sept. 4, has consumed more than 30,000 acres and destroyed nearly 600 homes. A second fire in Bastrop County, the Union Chapel fire, has consumed another 750 acres. Over the Labor Day weekend, three fires west of Bastrop consumed more than 7,000 acres, some of which included densely populated residential areas. In the past seven days, the Texas Forest Service has responded to 181 fires that affected more than 7,500 acres. Over the last 48 hours alone, the Forest Service reports that more than 700 homes have been destroyed. According to the Governor’s Office, since the beginning of wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned more than 3.6 million acres.
Texans who believe they have encountered price gouging during the wildfire and drought disaster should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.