Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Perry Heads to Texas

A wildfire in Bastrop was still uncontrolled at midday September 5, 2011. Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News.
A wildfire in Bastrop was still uncontrolled at midday September 5, 2011. Photo by Lizzie Chen for KUT News.

With wildfires raging outside of Austin, Gov. Rick Perry is leaving the campaign trail to return to his home state, the governor's office confirmed this morning. 

“The wildfire situation in Texas is severe and all necessary state resources are being made available to protect lives and property,” Perry said in a statement. “I urge Texans to take extreme caution as we continue to see the devastating effects of sweeping wildfires impacting both rural and urban areas of the state."

Perry was slated to be part of a GOP presidential forum this afternoon in Columbia, South Carolina — his first nationally-televised event with fellow contenders Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain. Despite speculation that Perry might participate remotely in the South Carolina forum, event organizers said it wasn't a possibility. 

Now he's homeward bound instead, putting even more pressure on Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley, California. "He's planning to go to the debate," Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said. 

The Texas Forest Service has responded to 63 new fires this weekend, that have burned roughly 33,000 acres in Bastrop, Travis, Henderon, Limestone, Caldwell and Colorado counties. Hundreds of Central Texas homes have been destroyed since Sunday afternoon. Perry's office said the state has deployed 15 single-engine air tankers, 12 helicopters and 13 aerial supervision aircraft assets to help with the fire-fighting. 

Perry will head home from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he was speaking at an event hosted by U.S. Rep. Tim Scott. A spokeswoman in the governor's office said there were not plans yet for the governor to tour the wildfire sites — he doesn't want to be in the way of firefighting efforts — but that he was closely monitoring the situation. 

Today's candidate forum, where the leading Republican candidates will be questioned by Tea Party Sen. Jim DeMint at the Palmetto Freedom Forum, is a practice round of sorts. The candidates won't be able to spar with each other on the issues, but they'll get a sense of the lines of questioning — and follow-ups — they might face in a series of scheduled debates, the first of which is Wednesday. 

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Jay Root is a native of Liberty. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business. It all started when he walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and realized it wasn't for him. Soon he was applying for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since. He has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Tribune.