February 16, 2023

Fire recovery bills pass Senate Conservation Committee


Burned Ridges in McBride Burned Area

The Senate Conservation Committee passed two bills that would assist communities impacted by fires last year.

These bills would appropriate state funds to help with recovery efforts in areas impacted by the Black and McBride fires.

The Black Fire recovery legislation, SB 334, appropriates $3 million to recovery efforts while the McBride Fire recovery bill, SB 430, would provide $20 million. 

Both bills passed without opposition.

This follows the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire recovery bill, which has made it to the governor’s desk.

Unlike the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the federal government has not taken responsibility for the Black and McBride fires. That means less federal money is available to assist.

The federal money available to communities impacted by the McBride Fire is insufficient, according to Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, who is sponsoring SB 430.

“It was a devastating fire obviously in Lincoln County,” Burt said.

He said the winds blew the fire away from Ruidoso, otherwise the school would have been destroyed and the blaze would have burned down Main Street.

But even with the winds pushing the fire away from Ruidoso, more than 200 structures were destroyed, many of them homes, Burt said. Additionally, two people were killed by the fire.

The communities now need to replace and repair water systems, sewer systems and roads. Burt said two bridges need to be replaced, including a box culvert near a school.

He said the McBride Fire comes on the heels of the 2006 Little Bear Fire which was “as devastating if not more so than this one.”

Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, who sponsored the Black Fire legislation, said the money would go to cities, counties and soil and water conservation districts.

“We have 330,000 acres that burned in the fire but much of the damage was actually a result of the floods that came after the fires,” she said. “So we have acequias, we have ditches and we have roads to clean up.”

Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, is sponsoring SB 430 along with Burt and Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, has joined Diamond in sponsoring SB 334.

The two bills now head to the Senate Finance Committee.