More emergency aid for flooding heading to the Black Fire burn scar in southern NM

By: - October 5, 2022 4:30 am

Clouds move toward the Black Fire burn scar in southern New Mexico on July 27, 2022. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an emergency declaration for Sierra County due to flooding on Monday, Oct. 3. This is the fourth county near the Black Fire burn scar to receive emergency funding and resources in a month.

The governor signed emergency declarations for Catron County on Sept. 16, Hidalgo County on Sept. 12 and Grant County on Sept. 8, all due to flooding. These orders provide $750,000 for the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to repair destruction and prevent future damage in each county.

Ryan Williams is the emergency services administrator in Sierra County. He said monsoon rains started in August, and it rained more than usual in the southern counties. The Black Fire burn scar intensified flooding threats in the four counties, Williams said, though some sustained flooding damage earlier. 

“It’s definitely gone through and rearranged a lot of our things and torn up a lot of our infrastructure,” Williams said.

Counties have to spend a certain amount of money on flooding recovery before asking the state for help, and Sierra County used up about $54,000 for flood mitigation and repairs before the emergency disaster declaration came down, Williams said. Now, the state aid will mainly go toward public infrastructure, he said.

Williams said roads are the biggest point of concern since a lot of outlying rural communities only have a single access point. He pointed out that lack of road access creates medical risks, like being unable to access emergency medical care, as well as regular commute issues with folks not being able to get to work.

“There’s a lot when you have a ‘one way in, one way out’ situation, and it’s completely impassable,” Williams said. “It’s really a priority that we have to make sure that our residents can get in and out.”

Despite the declaration, landowners with damage on private or federal land still have to go through different agencies for help, he said, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Farm Service Agency.

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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.