Biden approves major disaster declaration for areas impacted by South Fork and Salt fires

President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache tribe on Thursday due to the South Fork and Salt fires, which started on June 17.  This disaster declaration will pave the way for the communities impacted to receive federal aid including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and […]

Biden approves major disaster declaration for areas impacted by South Fork and Salt fires

President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache tribe on Thursday due to the South Fork and Salt fires, which started on June 17. 

This disaster declaration will pave the way for the communities impacted to receive federal aid including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-interest loans that can cover the loss of uninsured property.

New Mexico’s congressional delegation praised Biden’s quick response to the request for a disaster declaration.

“We commend President Biden for approving the Major Disaster Declaration so quickly. The South Fork and Salt Fires are serious and threatening multiple communities, with two confirmed fatalities and hundreds of homes and businesses already destroyed,” they said in a joint statement. “Our thoughts are with the families of those who have been lost to these fires and the thousands of New Mexicans who have had to flee their homes. And our gratitude is with the firefighters, first responders, local and Tribal leaders, and neighboring communities helping respond to this disaster.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico launched a dashboard to provide people with up-to-date information regarding the fires, which together total more than 23,000 acres and have destroyed an estimated 1,400 structures.

The fires have also claimed at least two lives and are considered among the most devastating fires in state history due to the number of structures charred and the people who have died. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the fire the most devastating in the state’s history.

The fires led to evacuations, including the village of Ruidoso and the city of Ruidoso Downs.

The New Mexico Environment Department has also issued a precautionary water advisory for the area due to the fires. The advisory applies to the Ruidoso Water System, Alto Lakes Water & Sanitation District, Tall Pines Water Association, Cedar Creek, Alpine Village, Smokey Bear Ranger Station, High Country Lodge, Eagle Creek Shell Convenience Store, Eagle Creek Sports Complex and Gavilan Hills Water Association. People using those systems are being encouraged to find alternative supplies.

People in fire-impacted areas who rely on private wells should have the wells inspected and repaired before use and then flush their systems until the water runs clear. Well water should also be tested for coliform bacteria and other contaminants.

In addition to the dangers posed by the fire itself, the Ruidoso area received substantial rainfall that led to flooding on Wednesday and could continue seeing storms throughout the we

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