UPDATE -- President Biden Grants New Mexico Disaster Declaration Due To Wildfires.
UPDATE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced that President Joe Biden has approved her request to declare a major disaster in New Mexico due to multiple wildfires burning around the state, unlocking millions of dollars in relief for affected individuals and communities.
“New Mexicans cannot wait for these fires to be extinguished to receive relief,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “That’s why I expedited the state’s request for emergency aid for individuals, and I’m grateful to President Biden for recognizing the urgency of the situation in our state.”
While requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration is typically a lengthy process that often only begins weeks after the conclusion of a natural disaster, the governor and state officials worked around the clock with federal authorities to expedite the filing process for a Presidential Disaster Declaration. By using science and data to show how these fires were dramatically worsened by a statewide windstorm, the state was able to more quickly meet the financial threshold for damages in order to make federal assistance available to New Mexicans.
Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham formally asked for a federal disaster area declaration on Tuesday to help combat the wildfires burning throughout the state.
The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire has burned nearly 146,000 acres near Las Vegas.
The blaze began nearly a month ago as a prescribed fire by the U.S Forestry Service that got out of control due to strong winds.
Lujan Grisham says once the fires are out, federal officials will need to reevaluate how prescribed fires are conducted.
“We cannot get ahead of these fires without taking some of the fuel out of our forest and wilderness areas. Prescribed burning has to be part of that effort,” she said. “Prescribed burning in April and during the windy season does not have to be in that equation.”
Lujan Grisham says she is concerned the wildfire season will get much worse as it gets hotter and the severe drought conditions continue.
She says no state will be able to clear out all the dry grass and other fuel that will feed wildfires in the coming months.