Preparing to take a hike has changed as the world warms. Where temperatures top out about 100 degrees for weeks, even months at a time, those who enjoy the outdoors are urged to be careful and prepare for heat-related issues. These can be everything from heat illness to a wildfire breaking out in the vicinity of a hike as well as hiking near burn scar areas. “Wildfires, and particularly high severity wildfires, can cause damage to trails and other recreation infrastructure like climbing areas, and campgrounds. This damage occurs during fires themselves, and also through erosion, hazard trees, and other issues that persist in a post-fire environment,” Nicole Brown, a spokeswoman for the Outdoor Alliance, said. “Stay on a designated and well-marked trail.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. Series: The Long Burn
The Slow Recovery From New Mexico’s Largest Wildfire
The wildfire had already burned 160 square miles of northern New Mexico forest last spring when it suddenly surged ahead, reducing to ash the cozy cabin David Martinez had built for himself more than two decades earlier. Martinez, now 64, had fled days before, one of 15,000 people ordered to leave as the fire spread. He spent the next three months sleeping near the edge of the fire in his pickup truck, his physical and mental health declining from the smoke, stress and lack of sleep.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that would provide $100 million in zero-interest short-term loans to communities impacted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire on Monday. These loans are intended to help with repairs and replacement of damaged infrastructure, which she said will empower the communities as they continue to heal from the largest blaze in New Mexico’s history. The bill passed with the emergency clause, which allows it to become effective immediately upon signing. While the federal government has taken responsibility for the fire, the money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been slow to come and spring runoff is fast approaching. Those getting these loans must have previous FEMA approval.
A bill that would provide $100 million in assistance to communities impacted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire to repair and replace damaged infrastructure passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday and now makes its way to the governor’s desk. SB 6 received unanimous support from the House. The $100 million of assistance will come in the form of zero-interest loans. The legislation passed the Senate last week also with unanimous support. The governor backed the bill throughout the session and praised the passage of the bill.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday that would provide short-term, no-interest loans to help rebuild or replace infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed during the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire or by the flooding and debris flows resulting from last year’s burn. SB 6 is sponsored by senators Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, and Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, as well as representatives Ambrose Castellano, D-Las Vegas, and Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde. It now heads to the House. The bill appropriates $100 million to provide these loans and, if passed, would become effective 60 days after receiving the governor’s signature. “We definitely have urgent need within the area that was adversely affected by the fires,” Campos said.
A bill that would prohibit prescribed burning during high wind, or red flag conditions, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. The committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, was the sole opposition.
The legislation now heads to the Senate Floor. Prior to passage, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, suggested an amendment that would allow the state forester or a county or municipality to issue a notice stopping prescribed burns based on wind conditions. This was ultimately adopted. He then recommended that the sponsor, Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, bring a floor substitute to the Senate that would change the bill to eliminate section C. Section C is the portion of the bill that would ban prescribed burns on red flag days.
With questions remaining surrounding allocation of federal assistance, the communities impacted by the largest wildfire in state history are asking the legislature for $100 million to replace and repair infrastructure destroyed or damaged by the blaze. This funding would come in the form of zero-interest reimbursable loans. Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, and Reps. Ambrose Castellano, D-Las Vegas, and Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde, are sponsoring SB 6 to provide that funding to the impacted communities. The bill received unanimous support from the Senate Conservation Committee and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
A bill that would provide no-interest loans to counties, cities and municipalities struggling to pay for damage incurred during the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire is scheduled to receive its first hearing Tuesday. Senate Bill 6 would provide $100 million in loans — money one of its sponsors says is desperately needed while expected federal funds makes their way to the fire zone. Funneling state money to counties and small towns is particularly pressing amid the prospect of renewed flooding when winter snowfall melts this spring, said bill co-sponsor Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas. “We are going to have a spring runoff — that has to be addressed,” Campos said in an interview. “We will do our best to get resources to these entities as soon as possible.”
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week requesting assistance for New Mexico families affected by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fires who are seeking financial relief from the federal government. “I write to you regarding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s current rulemaking under the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act,” the letter dated Dec. 6 states. “I am also very concerned with the lack of progress we have made recovering our environment and cultural heritage for our communities.”
The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire burned 341,735 acres. The wildfire began as a prescribed fire in April near Las Vegas.
App-based businesses such as food delivery and ride-share companies use GPS to find their customers. But the New Mexico 911 Program does not have that technology to do that yet. The Next Generation 911 is expected to bring the current analog 911 system into the 21st century. “The New Mexico 911 Program works to provide a best-in-class 911 system that facilitates efficient and reliable public safety response to best serve the communities of New Mexico,” Stephen A. Weinkauf, bureau chief of the E-911 Bureau’s Local Government Division, Department of Finance and Administration, said at a Rural Economic Opportunities Task Force meeting Nov. 21.
Enacted in March 2022, the New Mexico 911 Program was established by the ENHANCE 911 Act of 2004, or the Ensuring Needed Help Arrives Near Callers Employing 911 Act of 2004, which sought to upgrade the nation’s 911 system in the post-9/11 years.