A plane drops water along the south side of NM Highway 283, where firefighters are hoping to prevent any spot fires caused by embers floating across the road. (Public domain photo from near the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire via the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Uploaded Thursday, May 5, 2022)
President Joe Biden declared the ongoing wildfires in New Mexico a major disaster yesterday, and the categorization releases federal funding for people who’ve been impacted in recent weeks.
The money comes after a request from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said such funding could be nearly “unlimited” depending on the hardships faced by those in the path of the wildfires. One such megafire, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire, is already the second-biggest fire in state history and is only 20% contained.
The money can go for temporary housing and home repairs, loans for uninsured property losses and other programs.
Those who need assistance can request it by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. For those with speech or hearing impairments the number is 1-800-462-7585. The line operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT.
Before applying, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the following steps:
- Take photos of damaged homes or belongings
- Make a list of damaged or lost items
- If you have insurance, file a claim with your insurance company
- Apply for assistance
Biden’s disaster declaration makes the funding available in Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, San Miguel and Valencia Counties.
Since April 5, wildfires burned nearly 235,000 acres in the state and forced thousands to evacuate their homes and businesses. That includes more than 80% of the population of Mora, Colfax, and San Miguel counties, according to New Mexico’s congressional delegation.
In addition to the federal disaster funding, Lujan Grisham has said she is hoping the federal government will pay reparative costs for its role in starting the Hermits Peak fire, which began as a prescribed burn on a dry, windy April day. That blaze has since merged with the Calf Canyon fire and burned more than 165,000 acres as of Thursday morning and at least 170 homes.
The United States Forest Service has not yet responded to Source NM’s questions about whether agency officials are rethinking their protocol for prescribed burns. The cause of the Calf Canyon fire has not yet been determined.
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