Biden amends disaster declaration for wildfire, increasing time for NM to receive federal assistance

President Joe Biden authorized an increase in federal funds available to New Mexico in light of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, which was sparked by U.S. Forest Service prescribed burns. The additional funding available through the disaster declaration that was amended on Monday will help with debris removal and emergency protective measures that the state of New Mexico has taken. 

When the original declaration was issued on May 4, it set the federal government’s share at 75 percent of total eligible costs for measures taken during the first 90 days of the incident period. That was amended on June 11 to increase the federal share to 100 percent of total eligible costs. Monday’s amendment changes the time limit. It now states that eligible expenses that occur within 90 days of the original declaration can receive federal funds, instead of the first 90 days of the incident period.

Amid Biden’s visit, push continues to get additional help for fire victims

Rock Ulibarri says he tries to be self-sufficient, including growing food and ranching at his northern New Mexico home. But the merged Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires that forced evacuations in several counties have made this hard for his family as they’ve lost food and face increased costs. 

As the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire continues to char land in northern New Mexico, lawmakers and people impacted by the blaze say it is important that the federal government takes responsibility for starting the fire and provides compensation and assistance to those impacted. As of Monday morning, the fire had burned more than 320,000 acres and was 70 percent contained. It is the largest of several fires currently burning in New Mexico and is also the largest fire in the state’s recorded history. The second largest fire in state history, the Black Fire, is also still burning and has engulfed more than 311,000 acres.

Anger toward the Forest Service has been smoldering for a century. Raging wildfires brought it roaring to life.

TIERRA MONTE — The air smells of ash and the landscape is leached of color. Spots of green punctuate the valley floor in places. But along the ridges, the powdery residue of charred trees has fallen like snow, accumulating up to 4 inches deep. These are the slices of forest where the fire burned the hottest, scorching ponderosa pines from crown to root. Once titans, they are now matchsticks. 

Pola Lopez gestures in their direction, southward toward Hermits Peak.

Researchers say fire policies should take demographics into account

After an update about the Black Fire in southern New Mexico and efforts to fight it, a woman attending a community meeting in Truth or Consequences on Thursday asked for information about what it is like to be evacuated, telling the officials that she’d never faced an evacuation before. 

Thousands of New Mexicans have been forced to leave their homes as wildfires char hundreds of thousands of acres across the state. Hundreds of structures are known to have been lost this year to wildfires in New Mexico. With fires likely to increase under climate change scenarios, new policies may be needed and researchers with Resources for the Future say these policies may need to take into account the demographics of areas with higher levels of fire hazards. The Black Fire—which is close to 200,000 acres—ignited on April 13 and has since grown to be the third largest in state history. It is burning at the same time that the largest wildfire the state has seen—the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire—continues to burn.