Fire crews clean up land they damaged while fighting Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire

By: - September 21, 2022 4:30 am

A burn scar from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire in Mora County on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

From mending fences to planting seeds, firefighters are nearly done fixing the damage they caused while battling the largest wildfire New Mexico’s ever seen.

With suppression efforts like bulldozing vegetation and trees, as well as igniting controlled burns, crews tore up land and damaged property on and around the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon burn scar. They’ve been tracking what they destroyed — roads, fencing, culverts, cattle guards and more — and are repairing it all now.

As of Tuesday, federal fire personnel had cleaned up 95% of the total 3,259 damaged structures or land in private, state and federal areas, said Dee Hines, spokesperson with the incident management team on the fire.

But people can still request repairs in Colfax, Mora, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos Counties. Crews have addressed 624 calls for help on private land as of Friday, spokesperson Cass Cairns said.

Need a repair?

To apply or to ask about a pending request, call (720) 417-8048.

Property owners will be asked for personal information, what kind of suppression work was done and how extensively the damage impacts the use of the land.

Matt Rau was one of the liaison officers doing repair work last week. Firefighters prioritize the damaged areas or property that most severely hinder people’s daily operations, he said.

The federal crews order and pay for whatever is needed to fix the damage, he said, though there have been delays caused by supply-chain issues. For example, Rau said, some suppression efforts damaged RV equipment, which required specialized materials that took a long time to arrive. There are also dozens of requests for reseeding, he said, but a lack of seeds.

“We move through these things as fast as we can,” he said.

Some calls did slip through the system. Rau said he’s found unresolved requests dating back to late July, which is around when people could first start asking for repairs.

Since each firefighter crew only serves for two weeks at a time, he remarked, there’s difficulty in carrying over information from crew to crew. At almost every transition, he said things get missed.

“That’s unfortunate, but nonetheless, it’s just the human factors of something like this with this many complexities and moving parts,” Rau said. “And so we have had a few of them dropped through the cracks, and we’re picking up those pieces as we can.”


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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.