Briefs

NM disaster declaration extended, but feds haven’t said they’ll continue covering the whole bill

By: - August 1, 2022 4:34 pm

Thick smoke from wildfire in the mountains merges with the clouds near Guadalupita, N.M., on June 13, 2022. (Photo by Bright Quashie for Source NM)

The disaster declaration for ongoing destruction from the largest wildfire in New Mexico history has been extended to Sept. 6, but the federal government hasn’t said it will continue paying in full for damage caused by the northern fire that the U.S. Forest Service started.

As of Monday at 4 p.m.

The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire burned 341,735 acres. It is 96% contained.

The presidential declaration was set to end this week on Thursday, Aug. 4. That’s still when the feds will stop covering 100% of eligible costs for the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. Without further action, the federal government will begin picking up 75% of the bill with the rest left to the state.

Still, with the extension announced on Monday, people have longer to apply for help, and federal assistance programs can continue working toward recovery. The application deadline is pushed out to Sept. 6 for people seeking aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Residents who have applied for FEMA previously because of fire losses can update their application to include flooding damage, after that was folded into the declaration in late July. Anyone in the area dealing with flood destruction is encouraged to apply.

How to apply for FEMA assistance

Residents can apply for FEMA help by registering at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362).

FEMA approved these requests after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote to President Joe Biden in late July. This came after the Department of Homeland Security submitted requests on July 13 with no response from FEMA.

“The federal resources that have flowed into New Mexico following your declaration have been incredibly helpful,” Lujan Grisham wrote to the president. But firefighting and flood management continue to pull resources, the governor said, and the state also has to be ready to respond to more disasters during the ongoing wildfire and monsoon seasons.

Requests that haven’t been answered yet

Lujan Grisham also wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in late July, asking the department to provide funds to ranchers, farmers and landowners. She specified that fires have burned over 800,000 acres in New Mexico, also referencing the Black Fire in addition to the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire.

“Impacted producers and landowners are now left with few alternatives to continue their livelihoods,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “These lands were their summer grazing pastures and in many cases also their winter grazing ranges, and while USDA has disaster programs available, these programs are taking far too long to access and will not cover 100% of producer and landowner losses.”

Other outstanding requests include labeling Los Alamos and Sandoval counties as designated disaster areas, as well as switching to non-communal shelters and the expedited removal of debris and hazardous waste.

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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.

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